Brexit has become an all-consuming issue for many in the United Kingdom. Hardly a day goes past without some new angle or discussion in the media and political world about what sort of Brexit we might be heading for.
So, while in the UK the debate will continue, it’s worth considering how other parts of the world might be looking at this issue. The UK is probably one of the most international markets in the world, with produce sourced from the European Union, as well as other countries, including the U.S., South Africa, Chile, Peru, Turkey and New Zealand. Total UK fruit imports are in the region of 3 million tonnes (about 3,307,000 U.S. tons) per year.
What happens here in the UK post-Brexit will have implications for them all, but the full extent is still unknown.
For countries in the EU, such as Holland, Spain, Italy and France, the UK is an important export market for fresh produce. It is likely that the growers/exporters in these countries would want to see a relatively soft Brexit, whereby they still have good access to the UK in terms of tariff and non-tariff barriers. And the UK would still want to be able to import freely from them.
The real issue here is the noises that are being made by the political heavyweights across Europe — on one hand, saying that they want a constructive finale to the Brexit talks, on the other, indicating that the UK cannot be seen to leave the EU in a better position than they are now.
In other parts of the world such as the U.S., South Africa, Chile, Peru and Oceania, the UK has been a prime export market for many years.
However, over the past 10 years, there has been a strong effort to diversify exports to new markets, especially to India, southeast Asia, parts of Africa and the Middle East.
It is likely that all of these countries will need to negotiate new trade arrangements with the UK. In some cases, they will already have Free Trade Agreements with the EU.
The simplest thing to do would be to revamp the details of these (current arrangements) to allow trade to carry on with the UK in a relatively uninterrupted fashion. This would include the U.S.
The question of Brexit will continue to dominate in the UK over the next 12 months and beyond. In other parts of the world, including the U.S., the issue will be brought in to sharper focus as time goes by, but in some cases, might not always be the No. 1 priority to deal with. These other factors include the development of sustainable and resilient supply chains.
This involves areas such as water use, which is a particular issue in parts of the U.S. at the moment; food waste; carbon emissions; social and ethical responsibilities; and the need to make best use of the opportunities that the digital and online economies will present.
Brexit might be an all-consuming subject for some, but there are numerous other challenges and opportunities for the global horticultural sector to face up to as well. This includes the U.S. as much as anywhere.
John Giles is a divisional director with U.K.-based Promar International, the value chain consulting arm of Genus PLC. E-mail him at [email protected].