According to industry body the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), businesses are reporting that overseas customers are now cancelling orders and buying their product from other countries, due to the lack of clarity around Brexit.
Nick Allen, BMPA chief executive, said: “Last week we were inundated with enquiries from members wanting information on what exactly is going to happen.
“Despite numerous crisis meetings with Government officials, we are still no closer to getting definitive guidance on tariffs, certification and health marks that our members desperately need. Unfortunately, the disruption has already started and the damage is already being done.
“The lack of clarity around Brexit is now causing orders to be cancelled and, effectively, closing off once-lucrative export markets to British firms.”
Allen said the Brexit situation was causing three separate problems for the supply chain.
“Delays in announcing what tariff rates will apply in the event of a no-deal Brexit mean that shipments to overseas markets that set off tariff-free will arrive at their destination after 29 March and be subject to an as-yet-undetermined tariff. Those overseas customers have no way of knowing how much extra they will be required to pay.
“The insurers that cover these consignments and facilitate the movement of goods between countries are refusing to indemnify against losses related to a no-deal Brexit,” he added. “There is also confusion about which health mark should be used. The health mark is the stamp that indicates which plant meat has been processed at and is a key factor in insuring traceability and provenance. So far, no decision has been made by Government over what this mark should be.”
He added that, given it is less than a month until 29 March, processors will be buying animals “without any understanding of what the market will look like”.
“It won’t be a simple matter of selling more product into the UK market, because most of the £1bn-worth of meat exported is made up of cuts that are popular overseas but not here in Britain.
“The red flag has been raised and we are calling on Government to support the British meat industry with clear information and guidance and to step up efforts to agree trading terms with our most valuable overseas trading partners.”