Dairy cooperative Arla Foods has warned that UK consumers could face higher costs and less choice after Brexit, as possible non-tariff barriers and restricted access to labour could damage the dairy supply chain.
Arla gave the warning at an event at the London School of Economics (LSE), responding that a report produced by the LSE demonstrates the damage Brexit could cause to the UK’s dairy sector even in the event of a ‘soft’ Brexit deal.
The report cites concerns that increased customs inspections times at UK ports, further costs from the checking of dairy products at the border and the increased workload placed upon vets carrying out tests on animals at the border could lead to higher prices and potentially lower food standards.
Arla says that these concerns could make it more difficult to import dairy products from Europe, meaning UK consumers could see the availability of some butter, yogurts and cheese products become restricted.
Ash Amirahmadi, UK managing director, Arla Foods UK said: “The farmers that own the Arla dairy cooperative already balance keeping consumer prices down with maintaining quality and the best standards, including high animal welfare.
“There’s no margin to play with here in the value chain. Any disruption means that if we don’t get the practicalities of Brexit right we will face a choice between shortages, extra costs that will inevitably have to be passed on to the consumer or undermining the world-class standards we have worked so hard to achieve.”
“Our dependence on imported dairy products means that disruption to the supply chain will have a big impact.
“Most likely we would see shortages of products and a sharp rise in prices, turning every day staples, like butter, yoghurts, cheese and infant formula, into occasional luxuries. Speciality cheeses, where there are currently limited options for production, may become very scarce.
“It is important to be clear about this: Brexit might bring opportunities to expand the UK industry in the long term, but in the short and medium term we cannot just switch milk production on and off.
“Increasing the UK’s milk pool and building the infrastructure for us to be self-sufficient in dairy will take years.”
“To protect the British public we are calling on both sides in the negotiations to be pragmatic and sensible as they address the practicalities of Brexit, allowing us to have frictionless customs arrangements and ready access to key labour in the years ahead.”
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