Levelling the playing field must be the priority, says BPC
The British Poultry Council (BPC) has responded to the delay of the Border Target Operating Model (TOM), saying that the delay poses a “food safety risk, undercuts domestic production and amplifies the food inflation challenge”.
The BPC stressed that the cost of not have reciprocal checks is greater than the “burdens” that come with them.
According to the trade body, to preserve the viability of British poultry meat businesses, the UK must make relations with our largest and most important trading partner as efficient as possible by establishing fair and unreciprocated checks to equalise trade between importers and exporters – particularly in the absence of an SPS Agreement, in which these burdens could be addressed, and checks simplified.
The BPC maintains that recognition of mutually beneficial standards and practices with the EU must be agreed upon to ensure fair and competitive trade, to keep food moving and to tackle the issues importers are concerned over. It says that the current system, where one side of the Channel can trade freely and the other is penalised for trying to, is “simply not sustainable.”
BPC stated that in contrast to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment that farmers and food producers will “have what they need” to fulfil their role in society, delays to controls will undercut domestic production with cheap imports, posing a food safety and biosecurity risk and pushing up British food prices.
BPC chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “Citing inflation defers rather than confronts the consequences of the commercial realities of Brexit. It side-steps round the fact that a large portion of cost of production pressures stem from the lack of clarity surrounding unreciprocated controls and regulatory timelines. So much for wanting more British food on plates and striving for self-sufficiency: this fifth round of delays only continues to hinder investment and inhibit growth for domestic poultry producers, adding to the cost of production and amplifying pressure on the food inflation challenge.”
EU exporters pay nothing as British exports drop
British poultry meat exporters had just seven days to prepare for the conditions of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement signed 24th December 2020, conditions importers and other industries are yet to feel the full weight of, according to the BPC. Poultry meat businesses were then criticised by their own Government for “a lack of preparedness” from 1st January 2021. EU exporters, on the other hand, continue to enjoy “frictionless” trade; as a result, the value of British poultry meat exports dropped nearly 50% between 2020-2022.
Griffiths added: “Concerns that importers and other businesses have expressed are what BPC members have endured since 1st January 2021. Additional administration, like OV-signed [Official Veterinary] export health certificates, have cost industry £55 million a year since leaving the single market. EU exporters, on the other hand, have paid £0 in certification costs. Delaying the implementation of food import controls for the fifth time in two years means the EU continue to enjoy a competitive advantage.
“By no means do we ‘want’ checks, per se. What we ‘want’ is to fix the problems putting pressure on our supply chains. That starts by equalising trade between importers and exporters.”
Government should “level playing field”
BPC have previously reported how the cost and burden of once-labelled “teething problems” has forced production to scale back, whereby cheaper imports undercut domestic production “in pursuit of filling gaps on shop shelves retailers aren’t willing to pay a fair price for,” stated Griffiths.
He said: “Citing inflation is a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. Levelling the playing field across industries, sectors and entire nations must take precedence if accessible and affordable food is the priority. For consumers, not having these controls in place poses both a biosecurity and a food safety risk whilst pushing up British poultry prices, in a cost-of-living crisis no less. To honour his commitment, our Prime Minister must realise levelling the playing field on controls is the first step towards mitigating the damage of repeated delays to manage the long term viability of domestic food production.”