The chief executive of the Soil Association has written an open letter to the Defra Secretary, Michael Gove, warning that a no-deal Brexit could seriously damage short to medium term prospects for the UK organic industry. 

The UK government has already acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit would result in EU recognition of UK organic certification ceasing overnight.

In the letter, Helen Browning – a farmer and organic brand owner herself – writes that “not only does this (no-deal) represent a serious financial challenge for the businesses concerned, it could significantly dent a vital and growing export sector, and the potential for the UK to become an exemplar exporting nation based on the highest standards.

“The suggestion that’s been made that a solution to the situation might be to market these premium and sustainable products as conventionally produced (and priced) is frankly unacceptable”

“Furthermore, this situation undermines the confidence of UK organic farmers and producers who are at the forefront of delivering the transformation to sustainable agriculture, which you have so compellingly articulated.”

Addressing concerns that Britain’s organic food exporters could be locked out of EU markets for up to a year, the Soil Association chief executive notes: “The suggestion that’s been made that a solution to the situation might be to market these premium and sustainable products as conventionally produced (and priced) is frankly unacceptable and counterproductive to the long term shift you are seeking to make.”

Browning calls on the Defra Secretary to make a series of urgent commitments, including: taking measures to ensure there is no break in the ability of UK organic producers to export to the EU; providing compensation to viable businesses that suffer losses for a “politically driven crisis”; and making financial provisions to limit cash-flow impacts for organic farmers arising from a no-deal Brexit.