Vets raise swine flu risk as government considers delay to 1 July SPS checks on EU agrifood imports

Mon 4 Apr 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

sps checks

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning that government plans to delay long-trailed border checks on EU agrifood and live animal imports to the UK could risk allowing devastating infectious diseases such as African swine fever into the country.

Already-delayed rules, including a requirement for veterinary certificates and potential spot checks on agrifood imported from the EU, are due to be phased in from 1 July.

However, the government is said to be considering a fourth delay to the introduction of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks because of already mounting supply issues and the cost-of-living crisis, as previously covered in the IOE&IT’s Daily Update.

Trade confidence

The Observer reports that James Russell, the senior vice president of the BVA, will tell the international trade select committee this month that dropping checks would have serious consequences for UK biosecurity and affect trade as it would damage the trust that overseas businesses have in UK produce.

“If these controls are dropped there is a potential risk of an incursion of African swine fever which is spreading rapidly and has already had a catastrophic impact on animal health and agricultural industry in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa,” he said.

Borders controls not ready

According to Farming UK, the move comes amid reports that Border Control Post infrastructure in key ports is not ready for the 1 July 2022 deadline, and senior government officials are “sympathetic” to the idea of a new delay.

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is reported to have asked prime minister Boris Johnson to extend the grace period for EU imports to require SPS checks, reports the Express. Former Brexit minister Lord Frost is also understood to back the move.

Giving evidence on the impact of new import checks to the UK Trade & Business Commission, Cold Chain Federation chief executive Shane Brennan, said that exports from the UK had seen a “dramatic decline” when checks were introduced and that the same could be expected for imports from 1 July.

SMEs would be particularly affected as well as particular products that didn’t arrive in lorryloads but in pallet loads on a frequent basis, he said.

“For small businesses that trade has become impossible on exports routes and will become impossible on imports routes starting on the 1 July.”

'No room for complacency'

The IOE&IT has warned that importers should not be complacent about the introduction of rule changes and not to assume they will be postponed again.

Director general Marco Forgione said: “It is imperative that importers are ready and aware that these changes are coming. If you trade animal-origin or plant-based products with the EU, you need to understand these new measures.”

Help with EU-to-GB rules for SPS goods

The IOE&IT is running a series of one-day courses to cover the new controls and resulting documentary requirements for traders.

The next one-day SPS Rules course runs on 25 April 2022, covering the new EU-to-GB controls and resulting documentary requirements for traders, the new government IT systems for SPS goods and tips for compliance with the new rules.

For more personalised support, why not try our consultancy service? Check out the IOE&IT’s SPS consultancy, helping traders to understand if their goods will be affected by these new controls and what their obligations are.

Book a tailored session here with our expert consultants to get advice and guidance designed around your business needs, mitigating compliance risks and optimise for efficiency in your trade processes.