Importers and exporters of plants and fresh produce are being asked for their views on the government’s new draft regime for importing goods into the UK.
The Border Target Operating Model (TOM) was published in April after the government decided a year ago not to introduce the final set of controls on EU imports that had been planned. It continues the phasing-in of biosecurity controls on the import of plants and plant products while reducing the number of identity and physical checks some need.
It proposes a new approach to security controls applying to all imports and the phytosanitary controls applying to imports of plants and plant products, which will be facilitated by a single digital gateway for both importers and exporters, the UK Single Trade Window.
Regulated plants and plant products will now be categorised as high, medium or low risk.
High risk includes all plants for planting and potatoes; medium risk covers plant products with an identified pest or disease risk; low risk includes fresh produce which carries no identified pest or disease risk to Britain.
Controls will then be applied depending on risk category. “There will be plants and plant products which undergo fewer inspections or are not regulated at all,” says Defra. Certain goods will remain prohibited entirely.
The first deadline for the implementation of TOM is October 31 this year, when all imports of medium risk plants and plant products will need a phytosanitary certificate on entry.
From January next year, low risk goods will be exempt from systematic controls at the border and so will not require a phytosanitary certificate or pre-notification. This includes most fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Instead, they will be subject to enhanced monitoring via surveillance and evidence-led visits to premises by plant health inspectors.
By the same date medium risk plants and plant products from the EU will need documentary, physical and identity checks at the border while high risk plants and plant products must come through a border control post or control point where identity and physical checks will be carried out. Checks will no longer take place at points of destination.
The government is planning to explore a way of delegating checks of plant and plant product imports to authorised operators, or trusted traders. “This will allow importers to have greater control over their consignments, and businesses who have authorised operator status will benefit from flexibility over the location and timing of their import checks,” it said. Elements of this scheme will be tested in autumn 2023.
Arrangements for goods moving into Northern Ireland are set out under the recently agreed Windsor Framework and will not be subject to the TOM’s additional checks or controls.
Initial concerns of grower organisations centre on aspects that need further clarification.
Fresh Produce Consortium CEO Nigel Jenney said: “Imposing inspections of highly perishable goods at border control points from January 2024 whilst the authorised operator status and implementation timelines are unclear raises serious concerns and fundamentally fails to deliver the promised world-leading least-cost border solution as FPC believes the two should be simultaneously implemented.”
Jennifer Pheasey, director of public affairs at the HTA, said: “This draft version of the TOM is long-awaited. We still need certainty and a full picture of what the future of the borders will mean for UK horticulture. Our priority is to deliver the seamless, swift and secure movement of plants and plant products.”
Details on the model and how to submit feedback (by May 19) can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-border-target-operating-model-draft-for-feedback.