The UK government has been criticised after evidence was heard that Brexit was damaging farmers and the food industry in the South of Scotland.
The National Farmers Union told the parliamentary committee that red tape is causing 48 hour delays in produce getting to market with one export of pork requiring 27 different signatures and stamps just to get into the EU single market.
Vice President of the National Farmers Union Scotland, Charlie Adam, told the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee that the trade deal agreed by the UK Government didn’t meet farmer’s priory of friction free trade.
Mr Adam said new checks on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards meant extra paperwork and physical inspections meant extra costs and delays. He told the committee that the problems were more than just ‘teething issues’ and that there is clear evidence of structural challenges which are creating barriers to trade in practice.
Mr Adam blamed the UK Government for a lack of detailed guidance which he said has created challenges and inconsistencies on the application of the new rules before products are despatched to customers in the EU.
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, convener of the committee, spoke out afterwards, saying the evidence proved the UK Government deal was causing significant issues for the food and drink industry. She said they now have to do more to help the struggling sector.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said,
“The UK Government’s trade agreement has been a disaster for the south of Scotland where we rely on the farming, food and drink sector more than most other parts of the country.
“It’s now clear the deal comes nowhere close to meeting the needs of farmers and producers. The NFUS told us that meat export volumes are currently at 25-30% of normal levels as farmers adjust to the new rules. These are alarming figures which simply cannot be sustained long term.
“The committee heard of an example where a shipment of pork going to the EU now requires 27 different signatures and stamps from an official veterinarian on the Export Health Certificate. An error or inconsistency on paperwork will mean a shipment not getting to its destination, and NFUS is aware of delays of up to 48 hours occurring for products reaching end customers. This also has a knock on effect on logistics meaning transport costs have increased significantly. We heard of examples where exports are either not going at all, or companies having to send their loads in smaller trucks or vehicles that are not filled.
“The problems aren’t limited to livestock. My committee heard how the vegetable sector is encountering problems too, with extra paperwork costs and exports to Northern Ireland and Ireland requiring seven days’ notice. This makes it impossible for exporters to meet short notice requests from buyers. Animal feed and fertiliser exports have been affected too with logistical problems in the supply chain.
“Rather than reducing red tape as they promised the UK Government deal has created a whole new set of rules for farmers and food producers which require extra time and incur extra costs.
“The UK Government must now look at tightening guidance and training to ensure a consistent approach for European Health Certificates, as well as a commitment to seek to simplify Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards requirements with the EU going forward. Otherwise the sector may never recover from the harm caused by this inadequate, damaging deal.”