Red tape and paperwork are hampering pork exports to the European Union – bringing parts of the industry to a standstill and risking knock-on effects on farms.
The National Pig Association said excessive bureaucracy associated with new paperwork requirements were causing delays at Dover, Calais and other ports. With pork being a perishable product, these delays were making UK shipments unattractive to buyers, it warned.
Despite the Brexit trade deal agreed between the EU and UK just before Christmas, the NPA said the full overall impact of the new rules was yet to be felt. But export volumes were lower than normal for the time of year and the pig sector was already feeling the effect.
One load of pigmeat was caught at Calais for 20 hours undergoing vet checks and then rejected upon finally reaching its destination in Germany because of the delay. In some cases future orders have been cancelled.
Additional paperwork is causing major delays. One processor said each Export Health Certificate (EHC) needed 12 stamps for the English, Dutch and French versions required in duplicate when sending product to the Netherlands, with a 15-tonne load stamped 72 times.
New rules requiring inspectors to check labels on each box in a consignment of pork products means that the whole pallet has to be offloaded and broken apart to check the boxes in the middle, adding more time to the process.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are seeing a bureaucracy overload and it is already having a big impact on the pig sector. This is partly an inevitable consequence of Brexit – we always knew it would mean more red tape, checks and delays.
“But there is a political element, too. Why are 30% of all UK consignments to the EU are being checked? This is far more than many other third country exporters to the EU – for New Zealand, for example, the figure is 1%.”
Dr Davies said that the delays were forcing processors to cancel some shipments, with the cull sow trade particularly badly hit. Processors were wary of sending shipments out in case they were rejected due to deterioration of product following severe delays.