Brexit impact reaches Sicilian shores

Gianfranco Maltese in his vineyard. [Sicilia Agricoltura]

Brexit is bad news for British fans of Sicilian wine and good pasta. Sicilia Agricoltura reports.

The past three years of current affairs have been marked by the many questions concerning Brexit: from the conditions of the withdrawal treaty to the consequences for foreign companies with interests and headquarters in the United Kingdom, from the fate of the many Italians and EU citizens living in the UK to its impact on the European economy.

However, Brexit will also have practical consequences on businesses in southern Europe which export to Great Britain. Some of these are already apparent.

“The British market has always been a little complicated,” explained winegrower and oenologist Gianfranco Maltese, who is also the representative of Agia-Cia and the wine industry at the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA).

Gianfranco Maltese working in his vineyard. [Sicilia Agricoltura]

“There’s great demand for Italian and Sicilian agri-food products, notably because of the strong Italian presence in the United Kingdom and recognition of ‘Made in Italy.’ But, with customs duties, export costs will only rise. In the wine sector, these fluctuate between €1.70 and €1.90 a bottle, which forces producers to earn less by reducing wholesale prices, at the risk of being less competitive on the market,” Maltese continued.

“Our company, Maltese, has ended its collaboration with its English importer and the situation has only got worse since then. We now predict that charges will rise even more, with customs duties of about 20%. Medium-sized and large enterprises should be able to handle this increase, but I’d advise small businesses against relying on this market,” he added.

Harvesting of wine grapes in the Maltese vineyard. [Sicilia Agricoltura]

For example, this is the case of Poiatti, a prestigious company from the Sicilian province of Marsala which makes pasta using 100% Sicilian wheat. Founded in 1946, the company has been able to conquer the international market and continues to export to the United Kingdom.

“With Brexit, we’ll have to be more cautious,” explained sales and marketing manager Roberto Guarino.

“We’ll particularly pay attention to documentation in order to avoid any blockage of exports. There’ll be more red tape but the British requirements will be much lower than in other countries, like Russia,” he said.

“Currently, it takes about 20 to 25 days to process products in Russia, compared to a week in the United Kingdom. This is expected to double after Brexit but it’ll still be much shorter than exporting to Russia,” Guarino continued.

“Anyway, I also think that it’s in the United Kingdom’s interests to not endanger its own economy. Besides, we’re used to lengthy procedures. Italian and Sicilian products are highly regarded in the United Kingdom. There’s mainly demand for olive oil and vine, while demand for pasta is lower as it’s not commonly bought by British people,” he concluded.

Brexit will be painful for the EU27 too. This is where it will hit hardest

As the deadline for the UK’s departure from the EU approaches, EURACTIV.com looked at how Brexit will impact the rest of Europe. Ireland, France and Germany are likely to be the most heavily affected.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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DISCLAIMER: This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

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