Tonnes of beetroot left to rot as EU firms look elsewhere

Five hundred tonnes of beetroot is being left to rot due to a collapse in demand, caused by Brexit, a farmer says.

Will Woodhall grows beetroot and spring onions alongside cereals at his farm in Penkridge, Staffordshire.

He expects to lose up to £90,000 after border rules introduced in January has seen firms in the EU look elsewhere, particularly for perishable goods.

Mr Woodhall said he expected to turn the crop into compost instead.

"I was driving down the road and got a phone call," he said. "I was expecting it to be, 'Can we have five more loads please?' but it was 'That's it - no more homes for it.'

"I've been trying to get rid of it left, right and centre, trying food schemes and various things. But haulage is an issue and no-one wants to pay for it."

Although Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, last year was the first outside the single market and customs union.

Since 1 January 2022 forms have to be completed in full before products leave the UK.

After Brexit, Mr Woodhall said he had anticipated problems and so had grown a smaller crop. When business boomed, he decided to increase production again, only to be suddenly cut off.

A report from MPs on the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday warned that labour shortages could cause “permanent” damage across the food and farming sector.

It said that as of August last year the sector had "potentially in excess of 500,000 job shortages."

The report continued: "If not resolved swiftly, they threaten to shrink the sector permanently with a chain reaction of wage rises and price increases reducing competitiveness, leading to food production being exported abroad and increased imports."

MPs were also "frustrated by the reluctance of Government to engage with the industry over labour shortages," adding "despite valiant attempts by the industry, ministers failed to understand the issues and even sought to pass the blame onto the sector".

The government has said traders need to get used to new rules, and also take advantage of new trade deals it is negotiating across the world.

Source: BBC News