Launched at Fruit Focus, ‘Producer Organisations after Brexit’, a report from the British Growers Association and Savills, warns that the loss of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme in the UK will lead to “the relocation of significant volumes of UK production to other EU countries”.
The match-funding the EU scheme provides to producer organisations is invested in shared facilities, the employment of specialist staff and the production of planning, growing and marketing operations, which are deemed vital in helping UK growers compete with overseas suppliers.
“Unlike other sectors, fresh produce has not benefitted from direct subsidies,” claims Jack Ward, chief executive of British Growers. “The absence of an effective scheme would put British growers at a distinct disadvantage to their counter-parts within the EU, who will continue to receive in the region of €800m of support.”
“Match-funding has shaped the industry,” explained Oli Pascall, Salamans farm manager at Clock House Farms, member of Berry Gardens and Fruition. “It helps with evolution and has allowed us to provide customers with better quality, more affordable produce. Overnight removal of the scheme would cause a huge shake-up in the industry as we would not be able to drive growth through investment as we have done in previous years.”
The UK’s 33 producer organisations are keen to adopt a replacement. “A new and enhanced scheme could go a long way towards helping the industry to compete and grow its share of the UK market,” claims Mr Ward. “A post-Brexit scheme can involve more growers, deliver greater benefits and help UK growers to compete on a level playing field with European producers.”
According to Mr Ward, “some key sectors would not be where they are today without successful POs”. Match-funded grant aid is claimed to be responsible for growth in the UK strawberry industry, which has increased production from 40,000 tonnes to 115,000 tonnes since the start of the scheme.