As Brexit unfolds, the impact on the fresh produce sector grows with extra costs already estimated at a total of 49 million pounds, according to Freshfel Europe.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement is allowing the sector to continue trade across the Channel without duties or quotas.
This ensures the competitive position of EU exporters in the UK and sufficient supply of fresh produce to the British market, according to the press release.
The EU exports over 3.2 million tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK yearly, representing 40 percent of the UK’s internal demand.
The staged introduction of UK controls is also helping the sector to adapt to new border customs and phytosanitary checks.
So far this has prevented the “worst-case scenario’ of chaos and long lines at the EU-UK border affecting the quality of perishable trade.
However, the sector is already facing significant additional costs through the need for new operational procedures, inspections and bureaucracy.
These costs are amounting to approximately 400 euros (about US$500) per truck, which will ultimately be borne by UK consumers.
EU exporters are still struggling to adapt to new practices and requirements, for instance in relation to rules of origin to export and re-export to the UK.
In April most EU fresh fruit and vegetables will require a phytosanitary certificate to enter the UK, with some Member States’ administrations take up to 48 hours to issue paper documentation.
“While the situation at the border is currently stable, the flow of trade is expected to suffer significantly from the introduction of SPS controls in the coming months impacting the ability to conduct ‘just in time’ operations,” Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel Europe said.
The introduction of full SPS controls at the border and full customs declarations procedures in July will add further burden and costs to EU operators, according to the press release.
With the full flow of business operations still to come and the introduction of SPS certifications and controls expected in April and July, the full impact of Brexit is yet to be felt by the sector.
The EU and the UK must continue to work together and Freshfel Europe Director for Trade, Natalia Santos said this could include “the creation of Green Lanes for fast-track access of perishables and swift establishment of electronic transmission channels for phytosanitary and other certification.”