According to Karin Goodburn, chair of the working group and Chilled Food Association director general, food business operators (FBOs) not using the Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland (STAMNI) to help test e-certification. The move would help to manage the red tape in a more efficient and less expensive way. "This is time limited and Government needs to hit its target of testers so the software can ultimately be accredited.
"We need to get out to industry a call to action by FBOs not using STAMNI when trading with NI. This is to take the opportunity presented now to test e-certification. They need to contact email@example.com now to help shape a more streamlined reduced cost export health certificate system, initially focusing on GB-NI trade but later GB-EU.
"This is a system that would streamline bureaucracy by digitising certification requirements as far as possible."
285 certifier years
So far this year, export health certificates, which have been required since the UK left the EU, has taken 285 certifier years to complete, Goodburn said.
"This when there's already an OV (official vet) shortfall and the food industry is under extreme cost pressure," said Goodburn. "An increase of more than £1.3bn in exports would be needed to cover this cost but it's not been realised.
"There are hidden costs on top of this, from Support Health Attestations, software and its licences, extra staff to deal with Brexit bureaucracy, food waste from delays, and lost sales.
Real SPS agreement
"A real SPS agreement is urgently needed with the EU to mitigate these issues, actually facilitating not hindering trade."
The SPS certification working group comprises 25 trade and professional organisations across the food chain, including port health and certifiers (OVs and environmental health officers).
Goodburn previously highlighted that Brexit-related red tape had cost food businesses £60m in the 12 months to November 2021.
Dearth of vets
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has regularly highlighted the dearth of vets over the past few years across the UK. BVA president Justine Shotton flagged the desperate situation in Wales alone on 5 July in a speech at the organisation's Annual Welsh Dinner at Cardiff City Hall.
In January, the Food Standards Agency announced plans to employ up to 25% of OVs to curb shortages and maintain official controls in abattoirs.