There may be a significant disruption in supply of Christmas food this year as food-producing businesses in Europe are “unaware of, and unprepared for, the post-Brexit customs changes coming into force on Oct 31”, Cold Chain Federation has warned.
According to a new survey by the federation, there is a concerning lack of preparedness of food-producing businesses in Europe that currently supply goods to the UK, with 39 per cent of those surveyed not even aware of the new rules and timeframes announced by the UK government.
In a key change under the new post-Brexit import rules, export health certificates signed by a qualified certifying officer will become mandatory for every consignment of ‘medium risk’ meat, dairy and fish products exported from the EU to the UK, from Oct 31. Some 41 per cent of survey respondents said they do not have plans in place to ensure compliance with this requirement.
The survey also showed that 78 per cent of the EU-based food-producing businesses surveyed believe costs will increase to their UK customers as a result of the new rules.
When asked about their intentions regarding the sale of their products to UK customers after 31 October 2023, only 60 per cent of respondents said they plan to seek to continue their service to the same customers at the same frequency. Some 10 per cent plan to reduce the frequency and range of UK-based customers they serve, seven per cent plan to stop altogether and 22 per cent said they don’t know at this stage.
“It is deeply worrying that well over a third of these food-producing businesses supplying into the UK are not aware that these significant changes are looming,” Fresh Produce Journal quoted Cold Chain Federation chief executive Shane Brennan as saying. ”Communications from UK government to these businesses has not been good enough and it is the food retailers, hospitality businesses and consumers here in the UK who will pay the price with disruption, delays, and losses.
“We have written to ministers setting out our survey findings and asking for the 31 October implementation of the export health certificates to be moved back to 31 January 2024. Government must use the extra time to deliver a much wider and better resourced communications campaign, starting now, to increase awareness among EU businesses in enough time for a full implementation on 31 January next year.
”By then the UK should also have a fully staffed border inspection team, enforcing the new rules but also providing support and advice for these EU importers. With so much stress, cost inflation and other pressures in the food supply chain this year, this marginal change in the implementation plans could make a big difference.”