Before 2016’s historic referendum on membership of the EU, representatives of the Island’s agricultural sector had mixed views on whether the Island would benefit from Brexit.
Former JFU president Graham Le Lay favoured Brexit, as he believed the imposition of tariffs on produce from subsidised EU farms could help Jersey farmers compete better in what is by far their largest export market – the UK.
But Jersey Dairy chairman Andrew Le Gallais claimed that the EU had been positive for the Island because membership of the trading bloc had helped the Island to export milk and other products to places such as China.
The current JFU president, Peter Le Maistre, said that he believed both Mr Le Lay and Mr Le Gallais had made valid points about the impact of Brexit, but that there were other factors to consider.
‘Any tariffs imposed on EU produce will be a boost for Jersey growers, but there will also be tariffs on our imports such as fertiliser and machinery,’ he said.
‘And the EU has been a help in overseas exports but the UK might get better deals.’
He added that what he felt most ‘strongly’ was that the UK government needed to make a decision on what Brexit was going to look like as soon as possible.
Mr Le Maistre said that current uncertainty over leaving the EU, which could result in stricter immigration controls being applied, had already contributed to staffing issues in his industry, with fewer migrant workers now coming to the Island.
The concern over immigration controls, as well as a fall in the value of the pound and improvements in the economies of many Eastern European countries, has led to fewer workers trying to find jobs in Jersey and other parts of Western Europe.
‘All business hates uncertainty and farming is no different. While the shortage of labour is down to many factors, this uncertainty only makes things more difficult,’ he said.
‘I believe the Jersey government has kept us well informed up to now – and when a decision is made, that will be the time to discuss what level of support is needed for us to be competitive.’