Cheshire Cheese boss told to look at US and Canada markets rather than EU

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·3-min read
Individually wrapped cheeses from the Cheshire Cheese company are displayed in a tray at Hartington Creamery near Matlock, Britain, January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Under the new rules each parcel of cheese now needs to be accompanied by a health certificate costing £180 ($248), meaning that low-value sales to individuals are illogical despite sales growing before Brexit. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Simon Spurrell, the co-founder of Cheshire Cheese Company, has been told by the environment minister to seek out US and Canada markets rather than the European Union (EU).

In an unexpected meeting with Victoria Prentis this week, MP for North Oxfordshire and parliamentary under-secretary of state for farming, fisheries and food, Spurrell was advised to look at “emerging markets” across the Atlantic.

According to the Guardian, the cheese company owner said the past three months had been among the worst in his career, as his business with the EU was brought to a stop due to the additional costs and paperwork caused by Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Under the new rules each parcel of cheese now needs to be accompanied by a health certificate costing £180 ($248), meaning that low-value sales to individuals are illogical despite sales growing before Brexit.

The newspaper added that Spurrell was now left with a £250,000 hole in his export trade with Europe.

“We have had a flood of people offering anything from: ‘Come to our town in Lithuania, Poland, France, Hungary, we’ll help you set up, we’ve got the resources,’ to British in the EU saying: ‘We’ve got a lock-up you can store your cheese here if you want,” Spurrell said.

“They think there’s an opportunity to get employment in their town, but that’s exactly what the British government should be doing”.

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He added: “The last three months have been thoroughly unpleasant because of Brexit. It’s been terrible, it’s been one of the most stressful periods of my business life.

“During the meeting, we were offered the full support of the government via the Department for International Trade (DIT) and trade initiatives with Liz Truss [the trade secretary]. This was to help us to access the new emerging markets for the new trade deals being negotiated.

“This as it stands is our only positive way forward to help us replace the lost revenue from the EU market,” he said.

Earlier this week, HMRC revealed that cheese, chocolate and whisky producers suffered the biggest post-Brexit export losses in the food and drink sector.

According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), cheese declined 85.1% from £45m to £7m year-on-year, while whisky exports nosedived from £105m to £40m. Chocolate exports went from £41.4m to just £13m, a decline of 68%.

Exports of fish and meat from the UK to the EU also saw a dramatic dip in January compared with the previous year - among the hardest hit export foodstuffs were salmon, which saw a 98% dip from the year earlier and beef, which fell by 91.5%.

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The UK's export market suffered a fall of £750m ($1bn) — a total 75.5% decline from the previous January, the FDF said. Exports to all EU member states fell, with a decline of more than 80% to key economies such as Germany and Ireland.

The slump came as Brexit occurred on 1 January. Britain officially left the single market, meaning new customs checks and trading rules took effect.

Businesses have complained of huge disruption as a result of Brexit.

Manufacturers union Make UK this month said three quarters of its members had experienced delays exporting since the turn of the year, while the Institute of Directors said last week that 1 in 5 of its members had given up on trying to export to the EU.

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