Down on the farm, Brexit casts its shadow

Organic farm co-manager Ellie Woodcock picks blackberries on a farm in East Sussex, which is run to strict biodynamic principles. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

Down on the farm, Brexit casts its shadow

  • Even with no customs duties to pay, the UK-EU divorce can deliver an unexpected bite

EAST GRINSTEAD, UK: On the face of it, Ellie Woodcock’s organic farm two hours south of London shouldn’t be affected by Britain’s impending departure from the EU.

“We don’t export anything, so that wouldn’t affect my farm. We sell very much directly to the English public and quite locally,” she told AFP.

But even with no customs duties to pay or headaches at the border, Brexit can deliver an unexpected bite.

“I think for the farming community, Brexit will have quite a negative impact,” said Woodcock, who co-manages Brambletye Farm, near East Grinstead, in Sussex.

“The farming community around here really rely on foreign workers, so changes to the legislation and people movement could really affect them.”

“There’s not one positive thing that I can spring out of it, even if I was to twist my mind,” added co-owner Stein Leenders, as he harvested the final fruits of the season.

Brambletye grows apples, pears, raspberries and blackberries, and sells eggs laid by dozens of free-range chickens over its nearly 45 acres of land.

Woodcock, Leenders and their 20-odd employees make or grow virtually everything on site, including fruit purees and bottled juice from a shed housing three busy workers.

“Some of the supplies I might buy from other European countries directly or indirectly through a third party,” said Woodcock.

“One of them would be corks. I also buy mushroom substrate, which comes directly from Holland.”

Such products risk becoming more expensive because of Brexit, which has both made the pound weaker since the 2016 referendum and upped expectations of disruption at the border.

Where Brambletye has opted to focus on a few products, other smallholders bring in fruit from Spain, Portugal and other sunnier European countries to sell during the long rainy winter months.

Fans of organic produce wander among the stalls at The Spread farmers’ market in the trendy Primrose Hill area of London. But the high spirits of the weekend hide a downbeat mood.

“Everything we plant is imported,” said Dave Newton, from Brockmans Farm, at his stall opposite Brambletye’s. “Brexit is going to affect us a lot because prices are going to go up. “Small farms are going to suffer the most.”

Large farms which export most of their produce, and particularly livestock rearers, are facing the threat of financial ruin.

They could see the possible loss of European subsidies and huge customs duties while importers could be given tax free incentives.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen yet in terms of subsidies,” said Mike Norledge, who helps run The Spread.

“A lot of workers have to go back to where they’re from, so that’s a worry,” he added.

Woodcock meanwhile said economic conditions since the landmark Brexit vote have not helped.

“It’s not a particularly glamorous job to pick fruit for eight to 10 hours a day,” she said.

“There was an incentive for workers from poorer countries when the pound was high as they made a lot of money quite quickly.

“With this sometimes xenophobic atmosphere, the big thing with Brexit is do (workers) feel welcome? If they don’t feel welcome and if there’s not a big incentive for the money, then they’re not going to come.”

Woodcock herself only employs locally because she has no facilities to house seasonal workers but has faced great difficulties finding anyone.

“That makes me really worried for other farms. How are they going to manage?” she said.


Turkey says may begin oil exploration under Libya deal in 3-4 months

Updated 29 May 2020

Turkey says may begin oil exploration under Libya deal in 3-4 months

  • Donmez said Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) would begin operations in areas under its license after the process was completed
  • Turkey could face possible EU sanctions over its operations

ANKARA: Turkey may begin oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean within three or four months under a deal it signed with Libya that was condemned by others in the region including Greece, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Friday.
Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed the maritime delimitation deal last year. Turkey says it creates an exclusive economic zone from its southern coast to Libya’s northeast coast, and protects rights to resources.
Greece, Cyprus and others oppose the accord and call it illegal, an accusation Ankara has rejected. The European Union also opposes the maritime deal that was signed alongside an agreement for Turkey to provide military support to the GNA, which has battled forces based in eastern Libya for more than a year.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the launch of Turkey’s Fatih oil-and-gas drilling ship to the Black Sea, Donmez said Turkish Petroleum (TPAO), which had applied for an exploration permit in the eastern Mediterranean, would begin operations in areas under its license after the process was completed.
“Within the framework of the agreement we reached with Libya we will be able to start our oil exploration operations there within three to four months,” Donmez said. Turkey’s new Kanuni drill ship would also go to the Mediterranean later this year, he added.
The move could further stoke tensions in the region, where Turkey has been at loggerheads for years with Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over ownership of natural resources. Turkey could also face possible EU sanctions over its operations.
Separately, Donmez said the Fatih drill ship would hold its first operation in the Black Sea on July 15, the anniversary of a 2016 failed coup attempt. Friday also marked the anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.