Delays in checking products at Calais are already causing problems for pork exports, according to the NPA.
The NPA has reported that, while there currently appear to be no significant issues on the Dover side, pork exporters are now experiencing delays at Calais because of lengthy vet checks introduced at the start of this year following the UK’s formal exit from the EU Single Market and Customs Union.
The delays are impacting on the product’s shelf life and therefore the value of trade, as customers in the EU react, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said. This is posing a threat to the trade and there are concerns that the situation will worsen as freight volumes return to normal levels after the quiet start to 2021, she said.
On Friday (Jan 8), the BBC reported that the new border controls were already creating problems for exporters and traders.
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, which represents chilled transport and storage companies, said there was a ‘growing problem and sense of unease’ among its members as problems have emerged, despite the amount of cross border traffic still being quite low.
“Trade flows are still only about 50% of what we would expect, but even at those levels we are seeing levels of confusion and delays,” he told the BBC’s Today programme. “The feeling is we are building to quite a significant potential disruption.”
Retailer M&S said the new trade arrangements were creating ‘very complex administrative processes’. The red tape burden, along with potential tariffs on some exports ‘will significantly impact our businesses’ in Ireland, the Czech Republic, and France, it said.
A government spokesman acknowledged that there had been ‘some issues’, but said ministers had always been clear there would be some disruption at the end of the transition period.
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In a letter to Defra Secretary George Eustice in December, the UK’s biggest meat companies, including Pilgrim’s, Cranswick and Karro, and various industry organisations, including the NPA, NFU, and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), warned of a potential crisis due to the volume of additional red tape, including EHCs, and the lack of veterinary resource to process it.
The subsequent delays could bring the £1.6bn UK meat export trade to the EU to a standstill, the BMPA warned. The association said there were simply not enough vets who will be in the right place at the right time to inspect the loads, verify traceability paperwork and sign the EHCs.
Defra acknowledged that there are ‘a range of challenges’ in estimating both the number of EHCs that will be required and the availability of certifiers.
A spokesperson said the Department was ‘working hard to increase the number of official certifiers’.