Pigs Committee Chairman's Blog - 31 October 2019

As the political landscape around Brexit continues to shift, with another extension and a General Election being announced, Pigs Committee Chair Jamie Wyllie looks at the importance of still preparing for the eventual Brexit D-Day – whenever that actually is.

So, Brexit attempt number two has come and gone and we are no further forward, it would seem. When I started writing this rambling it was completely unknown if we would leave with a deal, no deal or stay. I was going to insist on a 3 strike rule being brought in just in case we pushed the deadline out again, so they’re pushing their luck now!

The buzz phrase again just now is "Prepare for Brexit".

I'm sorry to jump on the Brexit  bandwagon after being quite public about how sick I am of hearing about Brexit every day for the last 3 years but I thought I would put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard anyway) on what simple things I have done as a simple farmer to prepare as best I can.

I think the most important thing I have done is kept in my mind a phrase from Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy: "Don't Panic". Things are going to change, things will be difficult, but we will get through it.

The first most important thing to do if you employ anyone from the EU is to make sure they have registered for the EU settler scheme.  We want our employees to stay with us (although I'm not sure sometimes why they want to stay in the UK after all this nonsense), so it is in our own best interest to check they have done so. You may also find during this same conversation that they have no intention of staying. The deadline is the 30th of June 2021 so plenty of time left but, in my opinion, why wait? From a legal point of view, we can’t employ them after the deadline if they haven’t. It’s a really easy process, one that can be done from a mobile phone.

When the last Brexit deadline was declared I did some readiness in regard to certain basic supplies I would need to keep the business running. Firstly, I ordered an extra months’ worth of vet medication. Some things are used so routinely that one day of disruption can mess up a whole breeding cycle. Although I have been assured that medical supplies will be given a priority at the border.

Second, I phoned my AI (Artificial Insemination) supplier to ensure their supply would not be interrupted and therefore my supply, this is something I cannot stockpile. If space permits keeping some live mature boars would help to mitigate this but I was assured that supply wouldn't be interrupted.

Third, I phoned feed suppliers to find out if they had done anything to be prepared. I discovered vital minerals and amino acids needed for my home mill system had been stockpiled just in case.

Other foodstuffs, wheat and barley I could always source locally but soya bean meal is one thing I can’t get. I now try to hold one month’s supply of soya just in case supply is disrupted. This is easy for me to say because I just built a new shed for my mill and happen to have the space. I'm also a bit of a worst case ‘scenarioist’ anyway so factored in a modest amount of space for supply disruption when designing this shed.

So that covered feeding, breeding and caring for my animals which is the real basics that I can control on farm. Now on to the less controllable thing- markets.

My primary market is domestic, UK is only just over 50% self-sufficient in pork products and I supply most of my breeding animals to the UK.  So, export issues are limited in this respect. I do sell some breeding animals abroad; however, they are sold through another UK company. The issue is regardless of if there is a deal or not just to check that if your business directly supplies meat or dairy products to the EU then you need to register with DEFRA for export after Brexit.

There is not really much more I can say about markets because that is largely uncontrollable. Unless we can force the UK government to stop importing products from outside the UK that we can supply domestically (or perhaps more importantly do a favourable deal with Europe!) We are at the mercy of world prices and world tariffs.

So, this was just a short list of the things I have done in order to try and protect my business from the unknown implications of Brexit. We appear to have the skeleton of a deal agreed now but it still won’t be business as usual on day one. The key things are to ensure the real basics are covered staff, feed, medicines and breeding. Check your end market and that your registration is complete with Defra if you need it. Above all remember don’t panic, good luck, and see you on the other side.

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