With the UK due to leave the EU on 31st October and the possibility of a No-Deal Brexit becoming more likely, The Andersons Centre (Andersons) recently conducted research on behalf of the BBC to assess its potential impact on the profitability of UK farming, 9-12 months after Brexit taking place.
To undertake this analysis, Total Income from Farming (or TIFF) is a useful measure to look at the farming industry as a whole. It is an aggregate, so hides differences between sectors and individual businesses, but provides a simple measure of the profit of ‘UK Agriculture Plc’. In technical terms, TIFF shows the aggregated return to all the farmers in UK agriculture and horticulture for their management, labour and their own capital in their businesses. To allow for yearly variations in weather conditions and exchange rates for example, a three-year average (2016 to 2018) was used as the basis for comparison.
Taking into account previous studies, some of which have been undertaken by Andersons, a top-level assessment of the impact of both a Brexit Deal and a No-Deal on the output of each farming sector was compiled in addition to an estimation of the effects of both Brexit scenarios on key costs which are incurred by UK farming. This assessment considered the potential impact of tariffs (including the UK’s March 2019 announcement on its No-Deal Brexit tariff schedule), non-tariff barriers and tariff rate quotas. Importantly, it was assumed that support levels to UK farming were kept constant as the UK Government has committed to farming receiving current levels of support until the end of this parliament (scheduled to be 2022).
Under a Brexit Deal scenario, a small decline in profitability (3%) is projected; however, under a No-Deal, an 18% decline is forecast.
Impact of Brexit on UK Farm Profitability under a Deal and No-Deal Scenario
Sources: The Andersons Centre and Defra
Like all top-level industry averages, there is significant variation within the overall estimate. For instance, where output is concerned, substantial declines are forecast for sheepmeat (-31%), whilst output for cereals, milk and beef production are also down. Some increases are projected for horticulture and intensive livestock (pigs and poultry) provided there is sufficient labour available for undertaking operations.
With respect to costs, some decreases are forecast for inputs which would be affected by the introduction of lower UK import tariffs under a No-Deal scenario. Examples here include animal feed, fertiliser and plant protection products. However, other inputs such as veterinary costs are projected to rise as it is anticipated that there would be a significant increase in demand for veterinary staff to assist with border inspection operations.
An 18% decline in profitability would equate to a hit to UK farming generally of almost £850 million. With many farms already struggling to break-even, the projected hit on profitability in some cases likely to significantly surpass the industry average, the viability of many farming businesses will be in jeopardy. Unsurprisingly, grazing livestock farms (particularly sheep) would be the most exposed given the output declines mentioned above, but a No-Deal would also result in a significant downturn for dairy farming in Northern Ireland, given its reliance on having its milk processed in the Republic of Ireland.
For further information on how a No-Deal Brexit could affect farming and to address the trade-related risks arising, Andersons is running a webinar on Thursday, 12th September to provide further information on how businesses can prepare. Further information is available via: