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    New post-Brexit checks to push prices by 60 per cent, warn importers

    (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

    Newly introduced post-Brexit checks could increase some food costs by up to 60 per cent, food importers in Britain have said, which in turn is feared to further push up prices for customers, driving some shops out of business.

    After five previous delays, the UK government on Tuesday (30) introduced the physical checks on animal and plant products entering from the EU, having revealed at the start of this month that it would be implementing a common user charge (CUC) of up to £145 per consignment.

    However, importers and haulage companies have criticised the lack of clarity over what was meant by a “consignment”, with many assuming that the cap applied per lorry. In fact, vehicles with a wide variety of products from different locations could be forced to pay many multiples of £145.

    Haulage companies carrying meat and dairy products from Poland and other eastern European countries said the new charges mean they will now have to pay hundreds of pounds for each lorry, adding significant costs to operations, The Guardian reported.

    Businesses in the UK have been warning that the trade checks, which will see import costs increase immediately, are expected to hit smaller companies hardest and lead to price rises being passed on to customers for certain products.

    The second phase of border controls kicked in from midnight and have been introduced as part of the UK’s Brexit trade agreement.

    The government said its new border model would “improve our biosecurity”, adding the costs for businesses would be “negligible compared to the impact of a major outbreak of a plant or animal disease”, such as foot and mouth.

    Health certificates were introduced in January on EU goods ranging from cut flowers, to fresh produce including meat, fruit and vegetables, but on Tuesday, physical checks for the goods have come into force.

    The physical checks will be carried out based on the “risk” category that goods fall into. For example, the government said high-risk goods, such as live animals, will be subject to identity and physical checks for pests and diseases at the border.

    Products that present a medium risk to biosecurity will also be checked, while low-risk goods, such as canned meat will not require any checks.

    Britain imports 22 per cent of its beef, 21 per cent of its sheep meat and 49 per cent of its pork, and relies on the EU for the bulk of those imports, due to consumer demand outstripping supply, according to the British Meat Processors Association.

    The industry body said with “so little clear explanation” of how the new import checks will be rolled out, it had been “very difficult to gauge the impact on meat supplies, even after four years of preparation”.

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