Blog: UK exporters race to acclimate to EU trading rules under new Brexit reality – FoodIngredientsFirst

13 Jan 2021 — Volatility for agri-food trade activities looms following the Brexit trade deal signed between the EU and UK as industry comes to terms with what the new rules mean. Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, UK-based F&B exporters are voicing concerns that critical exports – particularly seafood – will remain constricted due to the new customs regulations that have come into effect. 

However, the traders anticipate it will take some weeks before the full impact of the nascent trade deal will come into clarity.

“It is too early to say how these changes will impact food and drink exports,” remarks Sandra Sullivan, director at the UK’s Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA).

“In the short-term exporters are having to get their heads around all of the new regulations and work hard to ensure that they are compliant.”

Seafood is an area which has been impacted badly, details Sullivan. Some exporters have not had the correct paperwork and new customs procedures on both sides of the Channel have caused delays.

“Groupage loads containing several suppliers and several species have caused particular issues,” she remarks. 

“Areas we have been helping [these suppliers] with include labeling, the need for a food business operator address in the EU, and understanding the need for exporters to prove that a good is ‘originating’ according to preferential Rules of Origin in order to access preferential tariff rates.”

Full impact remains to be seen
Sullivan notes that many of the FDEA’s exporters built up stocks with their EU customers in December in order to delay their initial 2021 shipments for several weeks. “We anticipate that the full impact will be more evident in the coming weeks.”

“Exporters are following the rules that they are aware of, and we have not had reports of delays which are impacting our members yet,” she adds.

“Making exporters aware of the changes relevant to them is something we have worked hard to communicate to our members, most effectively through regular discussion forums involving our professional associate experts.”

Exporting products of animal origin to the EU now entails numbers of additional documents and procedural requirements. Sullivan underscores that these sectors are likely to be the hardest hit by any delays in administration or at borders.

“Our Veterinary Health members have been working flat out to keep up with demand for Export Health Certification.”

Critical exports constricted
Leaving the EU means there are a number of new processes that exporters now need to understand and complete in order to retain their exports, flags Sullivan. 

The EU accounts for around 60 percent of all UK food and drink exports and remains critically important to the UK’s F&B exporters. 

“UK Food and drink exporters are having to adapt to these new ways of doing business and rapidly build knowledge of new systems,” she stresses.

“At the same time, they also need to ensure their logistics partners, ingredient suppliers and their customers around the world are clear on what is required of them. It is vital that everyone in the supply chain is aware of what’s new, in order to avoid costly delays.”

She highlights that FDEA members can benefit from logistics advice in both EU and non-EU markets by working closely with its “In Market Expert” members across Europe, North America, ASEAN and the Middle East. 

“This is a great resource that enables our members to consider new opportunities and get real advice from local experts working with the trade in their respective markets,” she explains.

Momentary trade cessations during transitional period
Marks & Spencer has temporarily stopped selling hundreds of offerings at its Northern Ireland outlets due to Brexit because of new regulations for shipments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The retailer is temporarily suspending popular food items including chocolate fudge pudding and sweet and sour chicken from its Northern Ireland shops following the barring of its competitors traveling between the mainland and Northern Ireland.

Other companies are more vocal in addressing the UK government about their logistical hurdles. In an open letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Scottish salmon producer John Ross Jr. decried the government’s oversight of the situation.

Victoria Leigh-Pearson, sales director of John Ross Jr. underscored that the company “had to endure the government issuing a barrage of useless information” while an “absence of factually correct information from all government agencies” also impacted business.

“Entire trucks are currently being rejected without explanation by the French customs authority,” she writes. “Our hauliers have now pulled their services, as such a backlog has been created. Other hauliers are not taking on new customers.”

“As a seafood exporter, it feels as though our own government has thrown us into the cold Atlantic waters without a lifejacket.”

By Benjamin Ferrer

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