Pork producers on Brexit: 'time is running short'

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

The NPA is calling for more urgency and engagement from Government 'before it is too late'
The NPA is calling for more urgency and engagement from Government 'before it is too late'

Related tags: Meat & Seafood, Supply chain, Regulation, Food safety

A long list of questions about exports to the EU from 1 January 2021 remain unanswered, according to producer body the National Pig Association (NPA), which is calling for 'more urgency' from Government.

The association is continuing to work closely with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on some issues. But, according to chief executive Zoe Davies, there is still a lack of understanding within the department and across Government about the severity of the situation. 

“While we are making progress in some areas, time is now running short and we need more urgency and engagement from across Government before it is simply too late,”​ Davies said. 

“As things stand, on top of the growing disruption caused by COVID-19, the UK pig sector faces the very real prospects of being unable to continue the vitally important trade in breeding stock to the EU and of severe delays, added costs and reduced market access for our pork exports. The impact could be devastating.”

Davies pointed out that in many cases, the issues would affect the industry whether or not we have a deal in place with the EU on January 1, 2021.

Dr Davies added: “It is extremely frustrating. As an association and as an industry, we always try to be prepared and remain optimistic, and still believe there is time to resolve at least some of these issues and minimise the negative impacts the new trading arrangements will create.  

“We will continue to strive to get solutions, but we need better engagement and answers from across Government and fast. Our message is that we are facing a very real threat to the viability of the UK pig sector and we must do all we can, collectively, to avoid serious disruption.”

Issues in detail

  • No EU Border Control Posts (BCPs) for live animal exports:​ BCPs will be needed to check everything exported after January 1. There are currently no BCPs at any seaports nearby that will accept live animals (this includes France, Belgium and the Netherlands). Unless that changes, the NPA claims the UK will be unable to export breeding stock to the EU, which will not only impact the viability of our breeding companies but have a knock-on impact on the productivity and biosecurity of the entire herd.
  • Support with BCPs​: DEFRA has left it to the industry to engage with EU ports to encourage them to register as BCPs and put in the required facilities. "There has been no interest from the Government in helping us engage at either Commission or Member State level,"​ the NPA stated.
  • No BCPs for live imports:​ There are no seaport BCPs in the UK at present either. DEFRA has pointed out that, as it is phasing in import checks, these won’t be needed until July. However, the NPA stated: "We will need to know well in advance what the exact requirements will be for testing and inspection, while any port operating as a BCP will require time to put the necessary infrastructure in place."
  • Delays at ports:​ The extra bureaucracy and checks required could result in long queues at ports, particularly in Kent. "While the Government has prepared some plans for hold-ups, currently livestock and meat are not on the priority list for movement through Dover – which is completely unworkable," according to the NPA.
  • Veterinary resources:​ There will potentially be a requirement for 500% more certification checks on live animals and meat products. The industry is still waiting for an indication of whether or not the significant extra veterinary resource required can be met.
  • Haulier concerns:​ Hauliers will require separate authorisations and qualifications in both the EU and UK. There is still a complete lack of clarity as to how companies will be able to register and hold multiple authorisations without adding huge cost. 
  • Great Britain (GB)-Northern Ireland (NI) movements:​ There is still a total lack of information on the movement of goods and animals from GB to NI on, for example, the level of checks, the potential for delays or detail on goods deemed ‘at risk’.
  • Pork from the Republic of Ireland (ROI), processed in NI:​ The NPA has expressed concern that meat from pigs coming from the ROI but processed in NI can bear the NI origin mark and flow into GB.
  • COVID concerns:​ The NPA claims it has seen no modelling from DEFRA on how COVID-19 outbreaks could impact on staffing levels at ports both on the UK and French sides – and what contingency plans are being put in place.

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