30 January 2024
UK rulings on vegetable imports will impact on consumers but could be good news for British growers - industry bodies divided.
Beginning in April, the UK's new border operating procedures will significantly alter the landscape for importing goods. Under these revised regulations, physical inspections at borders will become a standard practice.
The introduction of the Common User Charge (CUC) will play a pivotal role in this new framework and, come October, potatoes and other vegetables that are currently categorised as low risk, may be moved to the category of medium to high risk. Currently around 35% of fruit and vegetable products are imported to the UK from the EU.
The move has been met with varied responses from the British supply chain.
The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) estimates that the move will add around £200 million of extra costs, which equates to a £3m pounds value of fruit and veg. While the government claims that the cost passed on to consumers will be negligible, many fear the checks and delays will cost the industry dearly.
Chief Executive of the FPC, Nigel Jenney, described the cost as "a tax by the UK government to manage this process", and said the industry cannot absorb these costs.
He said: "The cost implication is basically a combination of different fees that the industry will have to pay to the UK government to manage the import process and subsequent inspections.
“There's a much more effective way of actually managing the controls, which are absolutely appropriate, and that allow controls at the point of destination. These have already been approved by the UK government."
But Deputy President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Tom Bradshaw, believes the bio-checks are necessary. He said: “British farmers and growers are very proud of the standards we produce to and maintaining our biosecurity at the borders is absolutely essential. We need to stop the risk of any plant and animal diseases coming in.”
At the retailer end of the spectrum, Iceland Chief, Richard Walker said: “The can has been kicked down the road for a very long time… but the reality is if you ask me exactly what's going to happen and how it's going to go, I don't know. We'll have to suck it and see. We'll see what the consequences are but you know it is more friction and it feels that it has been bungled by the government.
“I think the Conservatives have failed the nation. They've drifted badly out of touch with people like my customers,” he said, adding that Britain needs to get back its sense of national pride and industry growth.
Photo: Chris Boland