Agri exports: redtape can be mitigated but not avoided

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1st January saw the start of a new world for all exports to the EU. For the first time in 40 years, there are now customs and other export laws.

This has adversely impacted very quickly: some agricultural, fish and dairy producers have already ceased or suspended exports. Furthermore, significant veterinary checks and scrutiny of paperwork have caused a delay, higher costs and the risk of goods being rejected on arrival at its ultimate destination. Whilst some of the problems are described as teething problems the new regime is going nowhere. And, whilst it will be possible to mitigate this in part, this will inevitably mean additional exports costs, delays and EU food customers having to bear higher prices.

Agricultural produce, horticulture, dairy produce and fish earn significant exports for UK PLC. Individual businesses, many of them small, are family-run enterprises built up over generations. Until 1st January 2021, they have enjoyed frictionless access into the Single Market within a Customs Union. This has meant goods can quickly and easily be exported without delays, checks and red tape.

So, how can UK producers now get goods, often with a short shelf life, into the EU market quickly? In short, they must:

• Fully understand all export and import legal procedures. Farming and food businesses need to export animals, animal products, food, seeds and plants. Here, things are complex – exports are checked through specific export locations, agri-exporters must ensure the receiver of the goods can import them and the goods have correct commodity codes.

• Get professional support from export agents, freight forwarders etc, if needed. There is a significant shortage of those with the correct training and knowledge.

• Ensure those transporting their goods have comprehensive electronic and physical paperwork. This will include invoices, licences, certificates, export declarations etc. By far the greatest ‘pinch point’ is Dover and the Euro Tunnel (though Northern Ireland is another major issue in its own right.). Haulage companies carrying goods cannot lawfully enter Kent without a Kent Access Permit (KAP), only granted when all the necessary paperwork is in place. Incorrect paperwork means no export.

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