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Industry bodies warn of 'devastating' impact of new veterinary requirement for exports

27th Oct 2022 / By Alistair Driver

Meat industry and farming bodies have warned the Government that the introduction of a new post-Brexit requirement in December could have a 'devastating' impact on farmers and the meat sector.

As a result of leaving the EU, the UK meat industry needed to comply with a requirement for farms to have regular animal health visits by a vet in order to become export compliant. Until now, farmers have been able to comply with EU Animal Health Regulations (AHR) by providing a simple farmer declaration that vet visits have been done.

However, in May this year, Defra took the unilateral decision to add a UK-only requirement for a veterinary attestation.

In a letter to Farming Minister Mark Spencer, a coalition of meat industry and farming bodies, including the NPA and NFU, say: “Not only is this not required by the EU but, given the current shortage of vets and the sheer number of farms that would need to be visited afresh, we estimate it would take many months to implement this new rule.”

The organisations said the issue was ‘entirely avoidable’ and warned that, if the change goes ahead, a significant amount of the UK’s meat production will become non-compliant for export to the EU overnight, meaning thousands of farmers will see their livestock ‘considerably devalued’.

Farms that are members of Red Tractor, Quality Meat Scotland or the Farm Assured Welsh Livestock will meet this new requirement and would not need to provide further evidence at the point of export to OVs. But farms that are not assured would need to be able to provide evidence that they have had regular vet visits to enable OVs to sign EHCs at the point of export.

The letter pointed out that at least part of almost every animal in the country gets, even if it is only the skin or hide which has significant value, with 72% of UK meat exports going to the EU.

It warned the move will have a ‘devastating effect’ on farmers, auction markets and meat processors, forcing up livestock prices and further fuelling consumer food price inflation as the industry is forced to recover lost export revenue and additional costs through higher prices.

Pig sector impact

While the NPA is among the signatories, chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale said most pig producers will not be directly affected, as most pork for export comes from assured farms, which will not be required to do anything different.

However, many beef and sheep farms are likely to be affected and the move will put further strain on already stretched veterinary resources, which could have a knock-on effect on the pig sector, she added.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Businesses exporting goods from GB to the EU are required by the EU to use Export Health Certificates (EHCs) signed by an official vet. This requirement is set by the EU and is not within the control of the UK government.

“However, we are aware of the concerns raised by industry about the process of providing evidence of regular vet visits. We are engaging with businesses and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to try and ease the burden on exporters in meeting these EU requirements.”

Signatories to the letter

Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS)
British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA)
British Poultry Association (BPA)
British Pig Association (BPA)
British Meat Processing Association (BMPA)
International Meat Trade Association (IMTA)
Livestock Auctioneers’ Association Limited (LAA)
National Farmers Union (NFU)
National Farmers Union Wales(NFUC)
National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS)
National Pigs Association (NPA)
National Sheep Association (NSA)
Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW)
Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS)