The EU referendum - looking forward
As we move into the post referendum period, there will undoubtedly be major changes and we are committed to working closely with all of our licensees to help shape the future of food and farming in the UK. We have a strong organic market, which is currently growing at 5.2% and we want to ensure that other countries continue to see us as a confident exporter of organic. We also need to ensure that we have sufficient organic products coming into the UK at the right price to satisfy demand.
Over the coming months, we’ll be keeping you updated on developments and insights as we learn about them and on our work to ensure that we, as Soil Association and Soil Association Certification, support you in this uncertain period.
Please do share your concerns and thoughts on any opportunities with us. Whilst definitive answers on many of the key issues are still some way off, you can help shape our research, response and action over the coming months. We need your input to help our influencing and thinking. Please contact the certification team or the business development team at any time.
Understandably there will be many questions about what Brexit means for you, now and in the future. We can provide some answers but in many areas the position is not yet clear.
What is very clear, is that for the time being, we will continue to be bound by the EU organic regulations. The longer term is less certain. Any freedom to change organic rules and how UK organic goods can continue to be exported and imported will depend on the exact nature of any relationship between the UK and the EU. It may be necessary for Westminster to negotiate individual trade agreements with the EU and other countries and trading blocks. Over time we may wish to obtain other accreditations to facilitate sales to countries outside of the EU where we have previously been covered by EU trade deals. We are looking at what these could be, for example, with the United States.
Defra staff members have been told to carry on with business as usual and this extends to Countryside Stewardship applications this year, although we are seeking clarity on the duration of these.
So what are the Soil Association and Soil Association Certification doing?
- We have been contacting licensees with export interests and we are holding an Export Trade Briefing on the afternoon of the 13th September (following the annual trade briefing). Please register your interest here, or email LHoldstock@soilassociation.org.
- We have started engaging with Defra ministers to assure them of our willingness to work with Government to build agricultural policy for England. We will also work with ministers in the UK devolved nations, to build agricultural policies which meet the needs of all citizens in different parts of the UK. We met with the Defra Minister George Eustice prior to the referendum, who demonstrated that he was interested in the potential for the Soil Association to be engaged with policy development and implementation post referendum.
- We are engaging with mainstream farming organisations to ensure that the organic sector is not forgotten in any proposals for future agricultural policy.
- We are lobbying NGOs such as the RSPB, Woodland Trust, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to build as strong a coalition as possible to ensure that environmental concerns are not forgotten.
The UK may now be free to pursue trade agreements with countries such as China, where there is expected to be continued growth in demand for organic food. Indeed the market for organic food is growing faster in some countries outside the EU, than within it. At the moment such negotiations are managed by the EU. We already have active relationships in place with OFDC (the Chinese organic inspector body) for example.
The Soil Association is working with IFOAM UK (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) and IFOAM EU and is planning to direct more resource into IFOAM International to increase the visibility of the UK on the world stage.
We are looking at how to strengthen our supply chain support work to ensure strong UK supply chains where viable.
The organic sector has proved countless times that it is resilient, nimble and quick to respond to and implement changes. We intend to be representing your voice and exploring, influencing and sharing the work that will shape the delivery of a strong UK organic marketplace that actively encourages and supports UK farming and processing.