The Government has announced that additional checks on goods, including plants and fresh produce, imported from Europe, which were due to come into effect from July this year, will now not be introduced until January 2022.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said, ”The disruption caused by the pandemic had lasted longer and has been deeper than we anticipated.” He added, “Thanks to the hard work of traders and haulers, we have not seen anything like the generalised disruption at our ports which many predicted, and supply chains have shown themselves to be robust. However, the Government recognises the scale and significance of the challenges businesses have been facing in adjusting to the new requirements, at the same time as dealing with the impacts of COVID.”
Nigel Jenny, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) said the organisation’s lobbying had been crucial to securing the delay. “The Fresh Produce Consortium welcomes the UK Government’s decision to revise the timetable for import controls and not to introduce the requirement for phytosanitary certificates for EU imports of fresh fruit and vegetables produce on 1 April,” he said. “The UK Government has recognised the enormity of the challenges facing the UK fresh produce industry and its European partners, as well as its own plant health inspection service. It realises that it must get its act together before imposing on the UK fresh produce industry the next stage of significant change.”
The European fresh produce sector also welcomed the news, with Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard saying, “Freshfel Europe has been voicing strong concerns over the last months and we consider that this postponement is essential to ensure the supply of the UK market and the continuation of trade flows through the Channel, across which the EU27 exports over 3 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables a year.”
However, NFU Scotland said the decision was a “backwards step” and that the delays on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) border controls must be reconsidered.