Brexit to have little impact on Australian grain industry

Liz Wells, March 2, 2020

United Kingdom plant geneticist and chief executive officer of NIAB Crop Science, Dr Tina Barsby.

BRITAIN’s exit from the European Union is unlikely to have significant implications for the Australian grain industry, according United Kingdom plant geneticist and chief executive officer of NIAB Crop Science, Dr Tina Barsby.

Speaking at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update in Perth, Dr Barsby said there were no current grain trade deals with Australia and there was unlikely to be any new UK/Australia grain trade arrangements resulting from Brexit.

“Grain is not likely to be a big feature in future because of the UK’s ability to produce its own and the availability of EU grain,” she said.

“There may be some demand (by the UK) for high quality milling wheat but that is still more likely to come from Canada.”

However, Dr Barsby said uncertainty remained for UK farmers as they waited to see what the end of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and its replacement by the UK’s new Agriculture Bill, would mean.

She said the new bill moved away from direct payments to farmers based on the area of agricultural land they managed to a system of environmental land management contracts.

“The emphasis will be on soils and new powers to regulate fertiliser use,” she said.

Dr Barsby said there was also uncertainty about what Brexit meant for plant breeding and plant variety rights in the UK.

“How it works in the EU at the moment is each country carries out its own plant breeding trials for major crops, then a report is produced that goes to the EU community plant variety rights office for approval. You then have the right to market it throughout the EU,” she said.

“Within six weeks of the (Brexit) vote in 2016 we were visited by the community plant variety rights office who told us we would no longer be able to carry out this work because they are multi-year trials and by 2019 we would no longer be a member of the EU.

“They withdrew the contract immediately and re-tendered it. It has gone to Germany and Holland. They also said there was no mechanism for (the EU) to accept the country reports.

“What that means for plant variety rights I’m not sure. But some plant breeders are hedging their bets by putting each variety in the UK and another country.”



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