29 January 2021
‘Worst case scenario’ avoided but Brexit impact on fresh produce sector mounting
THE ‘worst case scenario’ Brexit where chaos and long queues at the EU-UK border affected the quality of perishable trade has been avoided, but importers and exporters have meant the fresh produce sector has had to shoulder costs of €55 million, according to European fresh produce association, Freshfel.
The organisation says the sector is already facing significant additional costs through the need for new operational procedures, inspections and bureaucracy, and EU exporters are still struggling to adapt to new practices and requirements, for instance in relation to rules of origin to export and re-export to the UK.
With the full flow of business operations still to come and the introduction of SPS certifications and controls expected in April and July, the full impact of Brexit is yet to be felt by the sector, it states.
In April, most EU fresh fruit and vegetables will require a phytosanitary certificate to enter the UK, with some member states’ administrations taking up to 48 hours to issue paper documentation as progress in electronic transmission possibilities remains slow.
Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard states: “While the situation at the border is currently stable, the flow of trade is expected to suffer significantly from the introduction of SPS controls in the coming months impacting the ability to conduct ‘just in time’ operations.”
Freshfel Europe Director for Trade Natalia Santos said this could include “the creation of Green Lanes for fast-track access of perishables and swift establishment of electronic transmission channels for phytosanitary and other certification”.
She said: “The EU and the Member States must also step up efforts to streamline administrative processes for obtaining certificates and increase flexibility in export operations, for example by waiving the requirement for a certificate of conformity for marketing standards”.
On the UK side, more transparency is requested by the sector to access updated import requirements, related legislation and certifications, such as phytosanitary certificate templates and procedures for pre-notification. The fresh produce sector also needs more certainty about the UK’s capacity to conduct physical controls in July both at the UK border and at inland sites to avoid more delays and costs for the chain, Freshfel says, while the UK levels of physical checks should also reflect the very low phytosanitary risk of EU fresh produce exports.