Meat exports cancelled because of EU exit confusion

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Meat exports now in transit will arrive at destinations after the UK's expected departure date from the EU of 29 March
Meat exports now in transit will arrive at destinations after the UK's expected departure date from the EU of 29 March
Overseas customers have cancelled meat export orders as a result of Brexit uncertainty, according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).

The organisation claimed its members were reporting that lack of clarity over the outcome of Brexit was prompting overseas customers to stop UK orders and switch to other countries for supplies.

This would significantly disrupt the supply chain and cause severe financial consequences for British meat companies who might struggle to win back lost business, according to the BMPA.

Food Manufacture understands export cancellations are not so far a major issue for poultry processors, but that the situation could change at any time.

“Last week we were inundated with enquiries from members wanting information on what exactly is going to happen,”​ said BMPA chief executive Nick Allen.

'Damage already being done'

“Despite numerous crisis meetings with Government officials, we are still no closer to getting definitive guidance on tariffs, certification and health marks that our members desperately need. Unfortunately, the disruption has already started and damage is already being done.

“The lack of clarity around Brexit is now causing orders to be cancelled and effectively closing-off once lucrative export markets to British firms.”

Allen claimed delays in announcing Brexit tariff rates for a potential no-deal Brexit meant shipments now en route to some overseas markets that would arrive after 29 March would face undetermined duties. Overseas customers affected had no way to know how much extra they would be required to pay.

Meantime, insurers covering these consignments and facilitating the movement of goods between countries were refusing to indemnify against losses related to a no-deal scenario.

Health mark

There was also confusion about which health mark should be used on exports, the BMPA claimed. The health mark is the stamp indicating which factories had processed batches of meat and is a key factor in insuring traceability and provenance.

No decision had been made yet by Government over what this mark should be, according to the BMPA. In addition, no formal acceptance of the UK’s change of status as it ceased to be an EU member state has been received from its major export markets. That meant there was a real danger that any product that got shipped bearing the wrong mark would be turned away from its destination.

During March, meat processors would be buying animals to process without any understanding of what the market might look like post 29 March, the BMPA stated. Nor can product be sold into the domestic market because most of the £1 billion worth of meat exported consists of cuts that are popular overseas, but not here in the UK.

“The red flag has been raised and we are calling on Government to support the British meat industry with clear information and guidance and to step up efforts to agree trading terms with our most valuable overseas trading partners,”​ said the BMPA in a statement.

British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths told Food Manufacture​: “We’re working closely with Government on a number of no-deal scenarios regarding trade. We desperately need clarity in order for companies to be able to plan for the future.”

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