Manufacturers have slammed the way certificates for export to the EU were handled during the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) near Guildford, Surrey, on August 3.
Greencore Group said an export certificate for cooked agricultural products seemed not to have been envisaged in the contingency plan set up after the 2001 FMD outbreak. Consequently, certification was delayed. "This was probably the worst incompetence I have ever experienced from a government department," said a spokesman.
Greg Hunn, Greencore group technical controller said: "Officials seemed unsure if export certificates were needed for every site or only certain sites."
At one stage, Greencore was told 30-day export certificates were unavailable, delaying matters further, said Hunn.
"When we got exemption lists [of products excluded from export bans], some products that should have been on the list weren't." Goods were still held at ports even with paperwork, he said.
Dairy UK said milk processors had to wait on final clearance of guidance regarding veterinary certification for heat-treated products. However, technical director Ed Koromowski said: "In retrospect DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] acted pretty efficiently and far faster than in 2001."
Meat exports to the EU resumed on August 25. However, the British Meat Processors Association said: "The cost to a number of our members will be hundreds of thousands of pounds by the time the situation returns to normal."
l See Trade Talk, p14