20 April 2018 | Online since 2003

1 December 2017

BEIC Comment - December 2017


With the wild bird migratory season in full swing, the risk of AI affecting flocks is heightened, especially with cases being found in wild birds in northern Europe. It is therefore vital that your contingency plans are reviewed and updated where necessary for the ‘just in case’ scenario. 
BEIC has been working with the BRC to finalise a slightly revised labelling solution in the event of an extended housing order taking us over the (soon to be agreed) 16 weeks. This would again involve using existing free range packaging, with a label that will include the words ‘Barn eggs’, plus information on why birds were housed. We are looking at the size of the label, though clearly it has to be of a size that can be applied automatically. Eggs would also be stamped with a No2. All of this is designed to again protect FR producers whilst ensuring full transparency to consumers. This was communicated to Defra at a meeting in November.
Turning towards Brexit, over seven months have passed since the prime minister, Theresa May MP, served Article 50 confirming the UK’s intention to leave the EU. You will all have heard the media continually reporting that the negotiations are not going as well as we would have hoped. No surprise really, as it does not make good sense to negotiate in public, which is what the media would appear to expect. However, we simply are no clearer on what terms we will be leaving on, and if there is no deal, what this would look like.
Our EU membership will end at 23.00 hours on 29th March 2019, which gives businesses little time to prepare for any drastic changes, and with lack of clarity on if there will be a transition period, let alone how long for, this only serves to highlight the uncertainty.
My own view is that that no UK government would let us ‘walk over the cliff’ by not having agreed some deal on future trade. This is based on the fact that if there is no trade deal, then we would default to WTO tariffs and Tariff Rate Quotas. Bear in mind that the current import tariff for shell eggs is 30.4 eurocents per kg (or approx. 20p/doz), this is how much would be added to any eggs entering the UK.
Even the ‘in quota’ tariff at 50% of the full tariff would add 10p/doz. For the various egg product tariff lines, they are higher. This would not just apply to eggs/egg products but to all agricultural and manufactured products where a tariff is in place. Take for example, Italian Mozzarella cheese, where the tariff is 40%! In other words, the cost of food would rise sharply and I do not believe that any government could allow that to happen. In addition, the same tariffs would apply to anything we export.
Let’s hope common sense prevails.