CHEESEMAKERS in the UK are being forced to focus on their local markets as Brexit causes a decline in European exports.
According to a recent Food and Drink Association report, cheese sales in the UK to the EU have fallen by 85% in January. It is also reported that imports of European cheeses were down by 30%.
Simon Spurrell, Director of Hartington Creamery and founder of the Cheshire Cheese Company said: “Brexit has changed massively the way we do business because we no longer have any access whatsoever to the EU consumer market,”
“We used to sell directly to all the EU consumers from our website. We were very successful with that.”
Spurrell said cheese sales via the company are not financially possible anymore because of the cost of new bureaucracy: “It’s become impossible because every single consignment to the EU now requires a health certificate called an EHC.
“This is a veterinary-issued piece of paper that costs £180 (€211.70) per consignment – it doesn’t matter if it’s a container load of cheese, or if it’s a single slice of cheese to a consumer.”
To compensate for the fall in sales to the EU, Spurrell has now been looking into expanding exports to Canada and the USA. He goes on to say that sales to the EU amounted to 20% of their trade pre-Brexit, however, there has been an unexpected surge in sales within the UK.
“The strange thing is that British nationalism has kicked in and the ‘Buy British’ rhetoric has ignited like we could never have actually believed,” he says.
“I think what has actually happened is there’s been a renaissance in looking towards all British producers recently. And I think people are realizing that the best cheese in the world was always on their doorstep.”
However, a UK Government spokesperson claims the fall is not wholly in relation to Brexit: “A unique combination of factors, including stockpiling last year, COVID-19 lockdowns across Europe, and businesses adjusting to our new trading relationship, made it inevitable that exports to the EU would be lower this January than last,” said the spokesman.
“We continue to provide a range of support for businesses to adjust to our new trading arrangements and seize the opportunities of trade around the world, and we are pleased to see the majority of businesses adapting well to the new requirements.”
It does, however, seem British cheeses are more likely to be consumed closer to home and that Brits may see more continental cheeses such as Brie appear on their tables less frequently.