A cheese crisis could be about to hit the UK

Emma Haslett
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Cheese crisis: It's coming (Source: Getty)

Forget Theresa May's oft-quoted line. It turns out for cheese lovers, Brexit could well mean Brie-xit.

A report by The London Eater suggests a cheese crisis is coming. British cheese makers and sellers are being badly damaged by weak sterling - even those who export much of their produce are having a tough time.

The report quoted Borough Cheese Company owner Dominic Coyte, who said Brexit is a "disaster" because it has pushed up the cost of his imports by 15 per cent, while Bronwen Percival, a buyer at Neal's Yard Dairy, said the company fears leaving the European Union will push up export prices.

Meanwhile, cheesemakers are also concerned Brexit could lead to new rules on the micro-organisms that give cheese its texture and flavour.

"Overly restrictive ‘micro limits’ for organisms such as coliforms or even non-toxigenic species of E coli bacteria make it very difficult to make some types of raw milk cheeses, particularly soft or slowly acidifying styles," said Percival.

But although the EU has no legal limit for either of those organisms, she voiced concerns British MPs could introduce new limits, or even ban cheese made using unpasteurised milk.

Milk producer Dairy Crest, which makes Cathedral City cheese, has already admitted to suffering as "substantially higher cream prices" ate into its butter business. Yesterday, though, it said its cheese had more than made up for that, delivering double-digit growth.

Last April, at the height of so-called Project Fear, David Cameron warned that Brexit could harm the UK's cheese sector.

In an article for the Gloucester Citizen, he said:

If we leave the EU and our farmers have to operate under World Trade Organisation rules, things would be very different. They could be faced with annual tariffs of up to 40 per cent and huge additional costs - for example, £240m for beef and £90m for lamb.

Protected status enjoyed across Europe by our unique products, such as Gloucestershire cider, Single Gloucester cheese and traditionally-farmed Gloucester old spot pork, will be lost.

Here's hoping things will get... feta.

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