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Calais border delays hit pork exports

8th Jan 2021 / By Alistair Driver

While trade flows remain relatively light for the time of year, we are already hearing of problems for pork exports due to border delays. 

CalaisThe NPA has learned 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.

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.

EU Exit - an update on the big issues 

Brexit containers

You can see an update on all the big Brexit issues affecting the pig sector - from the EU and other trade deals and new global tariffs to new certification requirements for producers concerning cloven-hooved animals, trichenalla testing, EU export restrictions, port delays and more - in a new Pig World analysis article HERE, featuring comment and insight from the NPA. 

Industry concerns over delays

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 has estimated that an additional 300,000 EHCs will be needed per year, but, according to BMPA chief executive Nick Allen, that total could be easily surpassed by just four companies in beef and lamb consignments alone.

The BMPA was also concerned that the Government’s new EHC online application portal, has not been stress tested to see if it will cope with the huge flood of extra applications.

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’.

“We have doubled the number of Official Veterinarians qualified to sign EHCs for animal products since 2019, and we are providing funding for surge capacity veterinarians as short term support for the end of the transition period.”

It also said EHC Online, which has so far been used to process 24,000 EHCs, has been stress tested ‘above and beyond the anticipated increase in EHC applications’.