April 24, 2019

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When Brexit Happens, Will Food Shortages and Hunger Pangs Follow?

When Brexit Happens, Will Food Shortages and Hunger Pangs Follow?
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For example, lamb from the United Kingdom is now sold in the European Union with no tariff. In the event of no-deal Brexit, the purchase price of a British lamb by buyers in Europe could increase by as much as 45 percent because of new tariffs.

There is a quota system in place for sellers not in the bloc — a certain amount of food shipped into the European Union is free of tariffs. But qualifying for that portion is very competitive. Smaller operations, in particular, could find the paperwork challenging.

So farmers who sell mostly to the European Union would have to look for new markets — in countries with free trade agreements — and customers outside the European Union.

But this also would require meeting unfamiliar health standards and learning to work in a new market, as well as competing with more established competitors. A farmer selling lamb, for example, “would be trying to enter third markets where Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and others have been active for a long time and probably have the market pretty well cornered,” Mr. Grozoubinski explained.

Poultry, products like milk and yogurt, and even honey could be delayed on their way in and out of the country by a number of new inspections.

  • Document checks: all animal products will be subject to them as they enter Europe.

  • Physical checks: staff at border inspection posts will take samples and check that products are safe for consumption. These checks will be applied to as much as half of these products.

As a result, bottlenecks are predicted. Countries like France and the Netherlands are expanding the infrastructure, like inspection posts, necessary to conduct these checks. On the British side, the government a few weeks ago created an artificial traffic jam for trucks as part of its Brexit preparation. The effort was widely ridiculed.

The squeeze may be felt acutely at the Irish border. Farmers in Northern Ireland send their fresh milk south to be pasteurized in the Republic of Ireland. “The reason they share this production across the border is for economy of scale,” said Katy Hayward, a political sociologist at Queen’s University Belfast.

But those economies may be lost if an exit without an agreement leads to a hard border of some sort. “That entails physical infrastructure and an economic burden for the producer,” Dr. Hayward said. “There’s no facility for that at the moment.”

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