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    New Brexit checks to cause food shortage, warns industry

    (Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

    Brexit import checks, coming into effect on April 30, will lead to shortages of some foods, flowers and herbs, industry leaders have warned.

    Some EU exporters have already decided that they have had enough of British red tape and are either pausing supply operations or have given up completely.

    Food wholesalers and trade associations have told the Observer of suppliers in EU countries who are already looking at other markets instead of the UK. Since 2020, importers have had to deal with mounting levels of Brexit bureaucracy, including phytosanitary certificates, plant passports, import licences and export health certificates. Next month, they will have another form to fill out for animal products, plants and herbs and must pay a “common user charge” (CUC) of up to £145 per consignment.

    Although ministers say this is only intended to cover the costs of new facilities, the Cold Chain Federation (CCF), a trade body for suppliers, estimates the government will reap a Brexit dividend of £60m, and the process will add £1bn to the cost of importing chilled food and plants. The insurer Allianz Trade said last week that overall food import costs would rise by 10 per cent in the first year of the new regime.

    In a letter to Steve Barclay, the environment secretary, the CCF’s chief executive, Phil Pluck, said that after UK exporters became subject to new rules in 2021, “many smaller cold-chain UK warehouses and distributors found the administration too onerous and ceased to operate”.

    The new border rules mean “the effect on both European partners and UK firms may be similar”, Pluck said, calling for a delay to border checks.

    Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said the government had failed to recognise that importing food was a rapid, overnight process, and that some importers would pay more in fees than the amount they make from shipping food.

    “We need those control points to be serviced by government officials to inspect the hours of trade our industry works. We need that done within days. Because we have had several major exporters simply saying, ‘On this basis, the UK is too complicated to trade with. I won’t do it’,” The Guardian quoted Jennery as saying.

    The new controls do not apply to fresh fruit and vegetables, but rules for these are likely to come into force in October under the terms of Brexit deal.

    A government spokesperson said: “We want to support businesses of all sizes to adapt to the new border checks, and the common user charge follows extensive consultation with industry – with a cap set specifically to help smaller businesses.

    “Our world-class border facilities will provide essential biosecurity checks to protect our food supply, farmers and environment against costly disease outbreaks entering the UK through the short straits.”

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