Border delays damaging meat exports, says BMPA
Meat processors are reporting delays at borders as a result of new Brexit regulations which are causing a “serious and sustained loss of trade”, according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).
Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA, said: “One of our members reported on 11th January that he had six lorry loads of product [value around £300,000] all waiting for customs clearance into the Republic of Ireland. At the time, one of those loads was about to be returned to the processing company after waiting five days for clearance. Drivers have been reporting long delays as they wait for HMRC to process the customs documents.
“We are calling for the current customs and certification system to be modernised and digitised, as the existing paper-based system is a relic from the last century and simply not fit for purpose. It was never designed to cope with the kind of integrated, just-in-time supply chain we have built up over the last 40 years, and if not fixed quickly it will be the thing that starts to dismantle the European trade British companies have fought so hard to win.”
“The worry is that these companies will need to return to normal volumes from this week but will likely get caught up in a second wave of border chaos.”
The BMPA highlighted “serious structural problems” with the UK’s new trading setup with the EU, including the paper-based customs system. Allen continued: “The new post-Brexit customs system for meat products is convoluted, archaic and badly implemented. At best it is causing delays to simple, single-product loads but at worst it has meant that grouped loads are now no longer viable to send. Indeed, some of the UK’s largest haulage firms have already ceased completely taking grouped loads.
“If continental supermarkets are unable to have products delivered the way they need them to be, this trade will simply be lost as EU customers abandon UK suppliers and source product from European processors. Members are already being told by their EU customers that they’ll be looking to Spain and Ireland to buy product from now on.”
Allen continued to highlight how these systems are impacting trade with the EU and Northern Ireland: “For the first two weeks of January most companies deliberately cut the trade they do with the EU and Northern Ireland down to a very low level (on average 20% of normal volumes). This was so they could tentatively test out the new system. But even at these low volumes, there have been catastrophic delays for perishable products.
“The worry is that these companies will need to return to normal volumes from this week but will likely get caught up in a second wave of border chaos caused by a flood of other industries ramping up exports at the same time.”
Photograph: Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA.