British traders are not ready for new sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks that are due to be introduced for imports from the EU from 1 April.
The government last year decided that controls will be introduced in three phases for EU goods entering the country, with declarations required for all standard goods from 1 July.
The second phase, beginning at the start of next month, will require importers of products of animal origin, plants and plant products to pre-notify officials of incoming goods and to ensure health certification is provided.
Industry sources told the Loadstar that SPS checks should be postponed to avoid “calamity” as neither importers nor European exporters were prepared for new documentary requirements and border inspections.
Herman Bosman, managing director of logistics company, Morgan Cargo said he was “very concerned” about the situation.
“During many discussions with EU growers, transporters and exporters, it is clear that the EU is not yet ready,” he said.
“It is not set up to accommodate the massive task of inspecting and producing phytosanitary documentation for exporting to the UK.”
Chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium Nigel Jenney has called for a postponement of the new checks.
With less than a month before the new rules, fruit and vegetable importers had not yet been given access to the IPAFFS system (Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System) where they are required to log pre-notifications of imports.
“We’ve had no training, and there are thousands of businesses that have not had to do this before. How can you prepare at such short notice for such a huge change?” he said.
The Guardian reported that the meat processing industry is also concerned about April. Meat trade between the UK and EU is worth £8.2bn a year to the British economy.
“If we have as much trouble importing as we are having exporting it could be quite challenging,” said Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association.
Adam Shuter, joint managing director of Exact Logistics, said the transportation firm has been “snowed under” since beginning customs clearance in January and is taking on more staff.
“From July everything will have to be cleared at the point it arrives in the UK and in my opinion that has got disaster written all over it,” Shuter said.
“I don’t think the systems are robust enough to be able to process the information quickly enough.”