Level the playing field between importers and exporters for affordable and accessible food
Plans to delay food import controls for a fifth time, as reported in the Financial Times, will undercut domestic production with cheap imports and push up UK food prices, BPC Chief Executive warns.
Proportionate controls are key to a profitable, sustainable food system. The current system, that other UK industries and importers are yet to feel the full weight of, is adding to the cost of production.
BPC Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “The concerns that importers have expressed are what BPC members have endured since Day One. Additional administration, like OV-signed export health certificates, have cost industry £55 million a year since leaving the single market and customs union. The repeated failure to implement full import controls on product coming into the UK from the EU means EU exporters have paid £0 in certification costs, handing them the competitive advantage.
By no means do we ‘want’ checks, per se. We ‘want’ to fix problems putting pressure on production costs and our supply chains. That starts with equalising trade between importers and exporters.”
British poultry meat exporters had just seven days to prepare for the conditions of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement signed 24 December 2020. These same British businesses were then criticised by their own Government for “a lack of preparedness” from 1 January 2021. EU exporters, on the other hand, have enjoyed frictionless trade to the detriment of domestic food production.
The costs and burdens associated with once-labelled “teething problems” have forced British poultry meat production to scale back 10%, whereby cheaper imports undercut domestic production “in pursuit of filling gaps on shop shelves that retailers aren’t willing to pay a fair price for,” added Mr Griffiths. “Levelling the playing field across industries, sectors and entire nations must take precedence if ensuring accessible and affordable food is the priority. The consequences of not having these controls in place will continue to push up UK food prices, in a cost-of-living crisis no less.”
The cost of not having reciprocal checks is greater than the burdens that come with them. To preserve the viability of British poultry meat businesses, we must make relations with our largest and most important trading partner as efficient as possible by establishing fair and reciprocated checks to equalise trade between importers and exporters – particularly in the absence of an SPS Agreement, in which these burdens could be addressed and checks potentially scrapped altogether.
We maintain that recognition of mutually beneficial standards and practices with the EU must be agreed upon to ensure fair and competitive trade, to keep food moving and to tackle the issues importers are concerned over – that BPC members encounter daily. The current system, where one side of the Channel can trade freely and the other is penalised for trying to, is not sustainable.
- Unreciprocated controls undercut domestic production and add to production costs.
- Level the playing field between importers and exporters to secure fair, free-flowing trade.
- The potential to address issues (and scrap checks entirely) lies in a mutually beneficial SPS Agreement between the UK and the EU.