A Scottish carrot grower is facing the loss of a 2,000-tonne business with Northern Ireland thanks to the effects of post-Brexit bureaucracy and increased haulage costs – the so-called non-tariff barriers to trade.
Martin Cessford and his son Kerr, from Whanland Farm, Brechin, have dealt with Co Armagh-based distributors Gilfresh for more than 20 years, with the two family businesses building a strong rapport.
However, the experiences of shipping carrots since the Northern Ireland protocol took effect in January 1 have been enough to convince both parties that their annual 18-hectare contract will have to end.
Gilfresh director Thomas Gilpin is now looking to source his 2021 carrots from the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere in the EU.
Mr Cessford said: “We cannnot put up with grief we have faced since January. Every load has to be officially inspected.
“Once it is passed, every detail has to be logged with authorities in Belfast before the lorry can leave the farm.
“The main issue is to make sure there is no soil on the carrots, but we have been washing carrots for years.
“We do not need to be told to pull our socks up. We have lost the flexibility to make up lorry loads at short notice to meet demand, which is critical.”
There is also a £75 charge per load for a phytosanitary certificate, although this pales into insignificance compared to the 15 per cent increase in haulage rates since the beginning of the year.
The result is the loss of a 45-acre contract.
“It is all very well the International Trade Secretary coming back with deals from China and Japan, but I doubt if they will be interested in my carrots,” Mr Cessford added.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Fergus Ewing, who pressed the issue in the Scottish Parliament after Farmers Guardian brought Mr Cessford’s case to his attention, said: “It is very sad for Mr Cessford, who has built up this business over a long period of years, to lose the custom simply because of the costs of complying with the post-Brexit bureaucracy.
“It is a bitter irony that those who favoured Brexit argued it would lead to less bureaucracy from Brussels, but instead it is leading to more.
“The costs to businesses are now only just emerging.”
Mr Ewing highlighted the EU ban on seed potato exports which the UK Government was trying to overturn and the ongoing issues with seafood exporters.
He called on Westminster to compensate businesses ’duped by this great British Brexit bourach’.
A Government spokesperson said: “The Movement Assistance Scheme has been put in place to assist traders financially when moving goods to Northern Ireland and we encourage all horticultural businesses to fully utilise this scheme.
“We continue to work closely with the horticultural industry to ease the process of exporting agri-food products, to ensure the people of Northern Ireland can continue to enjoy our high quality fruit and vegetables.”