Friday 12 March 2021 8:11 pm

Farmers union slams free pass for EU imports as UK food exports face red-tape and higher costs

The National Farmers Union has criticised the government’s approach to trade with the EU, arguing UK exporters are still facing financial losses not felt in europe.

The Farmers union is accusing the government of allowing the EU continued market access burden free, while UK exporters struggle with rising costs from border checks.

“Our exporters face additional costs and run the risk of financial losses if products are turned back or held up at the border, NFU President Minette Batters said.

“It is crucial that we achieve a level playing field with pragmatic checks on imports and exports as quickly as possible.”.

In response to the disruption, Batters is urging the UK and EU to agree a long-term arrangement as a matter of priority so trade can flow as smoothly as possible.

UK exports to the EU plunged 40 per cent between in January. With agriculture exports dropping by 56.2 per cent.

Under the government’s new border operating model, physical checks at the border will not take place on food products and high-risk plants until 1 January 2022. While checks on live animals will not take place until March 2022.

These checks were due to take place from April 2021, but have been delayed in order to ensure supermarkets remain well stocked with produce.

The EU imposed complete border controls on goods entering the bloc from the UK, when the Brexit transition period ended. However, instead Boris Johnson opted to have a transition period for goods coming the other way.

As a result, the new customs procedures caused extensive delays and product waste for some British exporters, with the seafood and meat industries particularly affected.

Among recommendations set out by the Farmers Union to reduce further red tape and trade barriers include: the digitalisation of outdated paperwork requirements for organic certificates, and streamlining physical and administrative checks at the border.

Prior to leaving the EU, £9.37bn worth of food per year was exported to the EU including meat, dairy and vegetables.

With 109,000 farmers be working in the UK during 2020, the President is worried about the impact certain foods being banned or held up for checks by the EU might have.

“We also need the continued ban on exports of UK seed potatoes to be urgently addressed. While the ban remains in place, our government must set out how it will support the British growers affected,” Batters added.