Industry chiefs have warned export issues are ‘not teething problems’
Dismissing problems at the borders for exporters as ‘teething issues’ was no longer acceptable with systemic weaknesses in the UK export processes causing major disruption.
And the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) warned British meat companies could be facing permanent loss of trade of between 20 and 50 per cent.
Its Brexit Impact Report highlighted three key areas which need to be addressed to ‘drastically improve our ability to hold on to our trade with EU customers’.
These were learning from other more efficient and cost-effective systems of inspection and certification, a move away from a paper-based system to electronic documentation and negotiating parallel rules in a common veterinary area, easing problems sending food to both the EU and Northern Ireland.
Nick Allen, BMPA chief executive, said: “The export hurdles we face are now in plain sight and are not going away.
“We need Government to urgently re-engage with both the industry and the EU to work out detailed and lasting solutions. The BMPA and its members stand ready to consult with Government and map out those solutions.”
UK trade data for January has confirmed a slowdown in trade as all parts of the supply change adjusted to new post-Brexit requirements, with the pandemic also having an impact.
Stuart Ashworth, director of economic services at Quality Meat Scotland, pointed in particular to the closure of out of home eating across Europe and restrictions by some non-EU countries on taking product from abattoirs and processors which have had Covid-19 outbreaks.
Beef exports to the EU during January fell by two-thirds from January 2020, while sheepmeat exports fell 40 per cent and fresh pork exports tumbled 70 per cent.
Mr Ashworth added this had impacted the need for imports, with both beef and pigmeat imports down.
Scottish traders have reported exports running 20-25 per cent of year earlier levels in January, improving to 40 per cent in February, which was estimated to have reduced beef and lamb export revenues by about £7 million.
Meanwhile, slaughter data showed during January and February the volume of beef produced in UK abattoirs was 2 per cent lower than in 2020, while sheepmeat volumes fell 15 per cent.