NPA warns of ASF risk from Government decision to abandon checks on EU imports
30th Apr 2022 / By Alistair Driver
The NPA has warned that the Government's decision to abandon plans to commence physical checks on EU imports exposes British farmers to the risk of devastating diseases like African swine fever (ASF) entering the UK.
Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg prompted widespread fury within the farming and veterinary industries when he announced that, after three previous delays, the Government will not be introducing the checks on EU imports of animals and animal products from July 1, as planned.
It now appears, that having already being delayed three times, physical border checks will never be introduced. Instead, the Government will ‘target’ the end of 2023 as the revised introduction date for a new digitised control regime.
The decision also delays a requirement for documentation, such as health certificates, on EU imports and restrictions on EU imports of chilled meats.
Mr Rees-Mogg claimed introducing the checks ‘would have been an act of self-harm’, imposing new burdens and risking disruption at ports, ‘as British businesses and people are being hit by rising costs’. He said move would save British businesses up £1 billion per year.
However, UK food exporters have faced additional costs, disruption and delays as a result of new EU checks and requirements, including documentation, on exports since January 2021, resulting in a significant drop in EU trade. In the first two months of this year, UK pork exports to the EU remained well down on 2020 and 2019 levels.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “Not only does this extend these grossly unfair trading conditions at a time when the pig sector desperately needs fairness and a level playing field, it exposes the farming industry to potentially devastating diseases like ASF.”
More industry reaction
The NPA's concerns are widely echoed elsewhere within the industry. Also citing the threat of a ‘catastrophic’ ASF incursion, British Veterinary Association (BVA) senior vice president James Russell said the ‘deeply misguided’ move flies in the face of common sense, and undermines the Government’s commitment to preserve high levels of animal and human health in the UK.
He urged the Government to abandon the plan and remove the threat of ‘significant damage to our food and farming industries’.
“If not, the Government must urgently set out how it will safeguard animal health and welfare in the UK in the coming months,” he said.
NFU president Minette Batters said the Government’s unacceptable approach had left British farmers at an ‘unfair continued competitive disadvantage’ to our EU competitors. “These checks are absolutely crucial to the nation’s biosecurity, animal health and food safety and without them we really do leave ourselves at risk,” she said.
British Meat Processors Association chief executive Nick Allen said the decision was a ‘double-edged sword’ for many meat businesses. “It makes imports cheaper and easier but comes with some serious risks of food fraud, unfair competition and compromises to animal health,” he said.