Brexit fears could give region’s rural economy a £100m headache
The head of shows at Three Counties says she fears for jobs, exports and subsidies as farmers, growers and producers in the region prepare for Brexit.
Ahead of the annual Three Counties Farming Conference on November 15, Diana Walton, who organises highly successful shows including RHS Malvern Spring Festival and Royal Three Counties Show, issued the warning as Britain’s ‘divorce’ from the EU looms large.
Mrs Walton said the impact could leave the counties of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire with a £100m headache.
“It is a perilous time for everyone in our region,” she said. “Brexit has caused both heartache and headaches for our army of farmers, growers and producers and they very much fear for the future.
“Uncertainty can rock any industry but it’s the level of impact we’re already seeing which is giving us cause for concern. Farmers are not able to change overnight and it will take several years to adapt. Sheep farmers particularly could be in a lot of trouble as they are so dependent on exports.
“But while we are a region of livestock farmers, we also have soft fruit and hop producers who are worried about access to labour. One strawberry farm near us at Malvern has 300 staff and just three are British so it’s hugely reliant on EU workers.”
The Farming Conference, in association with Knight Frank, will be split into afternoon workshops and an evening debate which will be chaired by farmer and BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson, ambassador of Royal Three Counties Show.
Adam will be joined at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire, by NFU president Minette Batters, Stroud MP David Drew who is the Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Neil Parish, Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.
But Brexit will dominate proceedings, conceded Mrs Walton.
She continued: “We have a lot of resilience in this region but while we have proved to be very good at diversification it is not an overnight process.
“If you add in the problems with borrowing money which Brexit will create, plus the change in subsidies, we could easily be looking at a £100m headache for our producers.”
Over 25 agricultural trade stands will feature at the conference offering advice, support and opportunities for farm businesses, and information for students wanting to pursue a career in agriculture.
Ticket prices are £20 in advance and £22 on the day, or for students, £10 in advance or £11 on the day. This includes admission to both the afternoon and evening conferences and the networking buffet, taking place between 5pm to 6.30pm.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit: www.farmingconference.co.uk