A survey by the UK’s only cooperative organic certification body has revealed the majority of organic producers want the organic standards to remain the same when the time comes for the UK to leave the EU.
The Scottish Organic Producer’s Association (SOPA) www.SOPA.org.uk consulted their membership to find out their views about the impact that Brexit may have on their businesses.
Businesses throughout the organic sector responded to the SOPA consultation, with the majority of respondents (85%) coming from the farming sector. 15% of those consulted were from businesses within the supply chain, and 10% of respondents were retailers of organic food and drink.
Of the 380+ consultees, more than half expect there to be a change in the food, farming and environment (not organic) regulations, and more than half expect the overall regulatory burden to become stricter rather than more relaxed.
90% of the respondents consulted said they wanted no change in the organic regulation, whilst a third of respondents say that increased regulation will be bad for their business. However, 10% disagreed and felt that a stricter organic regulation would help their business and, perhaps most noteworthy, 3% said that the status quo and the current state of uncertainty is bad for their business.
The highest priorities with regards to Brexit, according to those consulted, are continued support for the organic sector (90%) and ensure ongoing access to EU markets (83%). Nearly 80% of respondents believe that simplifying government regulation is important and almost 70% said they want a trade agreement with the EU. Free movement of people across state borders was important to 66% of respondents, with 44% saying that immigrant labour is not important to their business.
Those consulted were also asked about their plans for the future, to which the responses were as follows:
- Two-thirds are going to conduct a strategic review of their business
- Two-thirds are going to investigate new markets
- Three quarters are going to investigate new income streams (diversifications)
- Three quarters are going to interrogate their current business performance
- Less than 0.5% are considering withdrawing from organic certification compared to two-thirds who remain firmly committed.
- Only a third are anticipating no change to their business direction under Brexit.
SOPA Policy Manager Debs Roberts had the following to say about the consultation results:
“The impact of Brexit is going to be felt across all sectors, so as a member organisation it is imperative we find out what our members had to say about the matter.”
“It’s obvious that it’s a subject at the forefront of everyone’s minds based on the results of our consultation, and it was both interesting and encouraging to see that two-thirds of those we spoke to are planning on conducting a strategic review of their business, as well as investigating new markets. I believe this shows a positive attitude in a time of uncertainty and the willingness to adapt to a changing business landscape.”