A top Dutch official has said agricultural trading relationships between the Netherlands and the UK are ‘too strong to be changed fundamentally’ after Brexit.
Tim Heddema, agricultural counsellor at the Embassy of the Netherlands in the UK, was speaking to farming journalists from across Europe shortly after several newspapers reported that pigs’ heads were left rotting at Rotterdam due to issues with post-Brexit paperwork.
He told an online event organised by the European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ) and the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists (BGAJ) that many consignments of animal products had arrived in the Netherlands with incorrect or missing veterinary health certificates.
“These would be incomplete or not stamped in the right manner, they would contain incorrect inspection locations, notification numbers, amounts or weights and contradicting data, to give just a few examples,” he said.
“In the first week [after January 1], such errors were in almost every consignment from Great Britain. Now the percentage is still at 60-70 per cent.
“This all created a huge backlog for our inspection centres and the food safety authority, which already early on took the decision to prioritise all consignments coming from Great Britain to try to avoid congestion.”
Mr Heddema went on to say it was possible that Dutch exporters sending food to the UK could face similar issues when the Government ramps up checks on imports from April this year.
“We need to get clear requirements in terms of the documentation – how does the UK want health certificates to look and what should be in them. That is very important so we can issue the right certificates,” he said.
“Sheer volume might also be a problem. From UK importers, we hear IT systems are a real concern, so because of that, there may be similar problems, but we are doing everything we can to prepare together with Defra.”
Despite these issues, Mr Heddema remained confident that the UK and the Netherlands would continue to trade in future.
He said: “Businesses will have to accept that things cannot always go the exact same way as before, and as Governments, the onus is on us to find ways to smooth trade flows within the new rules with the help of electronic solutions.
“The good news is the Dutch are definitely not pulling out of trading with the UK. It will cost time, this new reality, it will cost money in some cases, but our agricultural trading relationships are too strong to be changed fundamentally.”