One of the UK’s leading rice companies, Tilda, has revealed a hard Brexit will make it difficult for them to continue accessing the EU market if tariffs are introduced which in turn would have a negative impact on business.
Umesh Parmar, joint managing director for Tilda Rice, one of the UK’s best-known rice brands, made the announcement on Monday (15) as politicians David Miliband, Sir Nick Clegg and Nicky Morgan spoke on Brexit negotiations at one of the company’s largest rice mills in Rainham, Essex.
Parmar revealed the rice mill would suffer if barriers were put into place on rice exports to EU countries.
“A hard Brexit could mean we lose our Tariff free access to our markets in the EU…..which in turn is not good for the Tilda business,” Parmar said.
“For us, the pain would be to our business and people,” he added.
In addition to Parmar’s concerns, ex-Labour cabinet minister Miliband, Liberal Democrat former deputy minister Clegg and Conservative chairwoman of the commons treasury committee, Morgan, used the Tilda platform to warn against a hard Brexit, as they noted the damages it can do to UK businesses, employment and living standards.
They also highlighted the need for a Brexit deal as the final deadline draws closer.
“The prospects of a hard Brexit are very high now and, what’s worse, the prospect of no deal is rising too,” Miliband said. “It does not need to be like this. It is very, very important that the country is not held to the kind of ransom that at the moment threatens living standards as well as the political influence of the UK in a very fundamental way.”
He added: “The negotiation is not with Europe at the moment; the negotiation is in the Cabinet room. This isn’t funny.
“We are less than 120 days away from the final negotiation.”
Alex Waugh, the head of the Rice Association, noted after leaving the EU next year, the basic architecture of the tariff system would need to stay the same if UK businesses wanted to continue successfully importing, mill and pack rice for the market.
Sharing the sentiment, Parmar stated maintaining the current tariff-free access to the market would be in the company’s best interests.
“From a Tilda perspective, any loss from the EU market would threaten the viability of our business here,” Parmar asserted. “Tilda is not only a part of the rice association, but also a member of the food and drink federation. Therefore, we are certainly not alone in the impact of tariff free access to the EU market.”
Parmar highlighted concerns the group had regarding the EU-UK Free Trade Agreement – even if this came into play, UK products would not be considered ‘UK origin’ and would face full and prohibitive EU tariffs.
Currently, 30 per cent of Tilda products are exported to the UK on zero tariffs – post-Brexit, this could rise to £145 a tonne.
Concerns the British brand would be losing its UK values were additionally noted by the managing director.
Parmar said: “The Tilda brand won’t disappear, but it just won’t be a British-made product anymore. The value added will not be in Britain. Our business would be better off within the customs union.”
Tilda is currently sold in over 50 countries, including Australia and North America, but emphasised its need to stay in the EU27 market despite having access to other markets.
The established brand was founded in 1972 by brothers Rashmibhai, Vipul and Shilen Thakrar, who had immigrated to the UK from Uganda.
The business was eventually sold in 2014 to US food giants Hain Celestial for a reported £217 million. It is thought to employ around 250 people and exports 70,000 tonnes of duty-free rice each year.