Fifth round of delays to the implementation of controls poses food safety and biosecurity risk, undercuts domestic production, and amplifies the food inflation challenge.
In contrast to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment that farmers and food producers will “have what they need” to fulfil their role in society, delays to controls will undercut domestic production with cheap imports, posing a food safety and biosecurity risk and pushing up British food prices.
BPC Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said “Citing inflation defers rather than confronts the consequences of the commercial realities of Brexit. It side-steps round the fact that a large portion of cost of production pressures stem from the lack of clarity surrounding unreciprocated controls and regulatory timelines. So much for wanting more British food on plates and striving for self-sufficiency: this fifth round of delays only continues to hinder investment and inhibit growth for domestic poultry producers, adding to the cost of production and amplifying pressure on the food inflation challenge.”
Safe, affordable, nutritious poultry is half the meat the nation eats. British poultry meat exporters had just seven days to prepare for the conditions of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement signed 24 December 2020, conditions importers and other industries are yet to feel the full weight of. Poultry meat businesses were then criticised by their own Government for “a lack of preparedness” from 1 January 2021. EU exporters, on the other hand, continue to enjoy frictionless trade; as a result, the value of British poultry meat exports dropped nearly 50% between 2020-2022.
Mr Griffiths added “Concerns that importers and other businesses have expressed are what BPC members have endured since 1 January 2021. Additional administration, like OV-signed export health certificates, have cost industry £55 million a year since leaving the single market. EU exporters, on the other hand, have paid £0 in certification costs. Delaying the implementation of food import controls for the fifth time in two years means the EU continue to enjoy a competitive advantage.
By no means do we ‘want’ checks, per se. What we ‘want’ is to fix the problems putting pressure on our supply chains. That starts by equalising trade between importers and exporters.”
BPC have previously reported how the cost and burden of once-labelled “teething problems” has forced production to scale back, whereby cheaper imports undercut domestic production “in pursuit of filling gaps on shop shelves retailers aren’t willing to pay a fair price for,” said Mr Griffiths.
“Citing inflation is a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. Levelling the playing field across industries, sectors and entire nations must take precedence if accessible and affordable food is the priority. For consumers, not having these controls in place poses both a biosecurity and a food safety risk whilst pushing up British poultry prices, in a cost-of-living crisis no less. To honour his commitment, our Prime Minister must realise levelling the playing field on controls is the first step towards mitigating the damage of repeated delays to manage the long term viability of domestic food production.”
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 simplified.
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 simply not sustainable.
- Unreciprocated controls undercut domestic production and add to production costs.
- Level the playing field between importers and exporters to secure fair and equal trade.
- The potential to address issues lies in a mutually beneficial UK-EU SPS Agreement.
- OV = ‘Official Veterinary’