With the new year approaching, and the rules for the movement of plant and plant products between the UK and the EU changing, the NFU is working hard to address the key concerns of its members.
A key win has been securing a Service Level Agreement (SLA) from government for place of destination checks which commits inspectors to inspecting or releasing plants within four working hours, but more can be done.
In order to minimise disruption, the NFU has six key asks of government. They seek practical solutions that balance biosecurity with business continuity:
- The further development of the SLA to include provision for government to accept liability for the impact inspection delays may have on the quality or yield of the plants or plant products, and to be extended in scope to cover all new checks, including those at borders. There must also be public reporting on government performance in meeting these targets.
- A smart risk-based approach for all new inspections to reduce overall frequency.
- The further suspension of inspection fees.
- A smooth transition to new IT systems.
- The extension of the 'Place of Destination' (PoD) system to a permanent option.
- The UK government must prioritise efforts to secure the necessary equivalency agreements and plant health authorisations to allow continued GB exports of certain goods to the EU and Northern Irish markets.
NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman, Ali Capper, said:
“As we move towards the end of the transition period, the NFU is continuing to work with Defra to ensure the new rules are fair, practical and clearly communicated to the industry to help members prepare their businesses and alleviate concerns.
“Progress has been made and the SLA in particular is a significant development that will give our members some reassurance. However, more needs to be done to ensure businesses are not put under significant pressure when resources are already stretched. For example, the proposed transfer from one IT system to another only weeks into the new year will place further demand on business time and resource; this rollover must be extended and managed carefully to give businesses enough time to adapt.
“It is critical that costs are kept to a minimum, especially as businesses are feeling the effects of a difficult trading year due to COVID. We are also seeking a commitment that inspections can continue to take place at business sites beyond July to relieve pressure on borders, minimise further disruption to businesses and reduce the risk of damage to goods, especially vulnerable young plants. Following NFU engagement, Defra has confirmed it is exploring the long-term implementation of the PoD system, which will be more welcome progress for the sector.
“Finally, it is vital that the government is prioritising all efforts to secure the necessary equivalency and plant health agreements to allow us to continue to export otherwise prohibited products, such as seed and ware potatoes, young tomato plants, or certain mixes of growing media, to the EU and NI markets. Many of our businesses depend on these markets, and without these agreements, access will be lost overnight.
“The NFU will continue to highlight the outstanding issues to Defra, and champion horticulture and potato members’ concerns.”
More from NFUonline:
- Northern Ireland Protocol - what you need to know
- Member exclusive: Plant passports - key changes for 1 January 2021
- Preparing your business for the end of the transition period