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Crippling Costs, Confused Policies: Government Sleepwalking into Food Security Crisis

By Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC)

The imposition of stringent new border checks on meat, plants, and flowers imported from Europe was inevitable, but the manner in which the UK government has implemented them borders on the absurd.

This bureaucratic mess threatens to cripple UK importers, disrupt supply chains, and ultimately harm consumers.

The root of the problem isn't the need for checks, but rather the government's failure to implement them pragmatically. Despite years of consultation with industry, the system remains an obscenely expensive and inefficient tangle of red tape.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the fresh produce sector. Perishable goods need just-in-time delivery, yet the government inexplicably prohibits inspections at commercially-run sites after 7 pm.

This creates a choice between costly delays or detouring to a government facility where fees are astronomical – up to £5,000 per consignment compared to a mere £100 for commercial inspection.

Such arbitrary procedures make the UK the "laughingstock of Europe." Farming groups have advocated for equivalence with EU export standards to streamline the process, but these new checks introduce unnecessary hurdles that stifle efficiency and drive up prices.

The government touts a technology pilot programs to potentially address these issues.

However, today's implementation of this flawed system, while promised solutions languish a year away,

The new system amounts to a kick in the teeth for businesses and consumers. It exposes a staggering disregard for the time-sensitive nature of perishable goods and the financial well-being of UK importers.

We deserve a border regime that is both effective and proportionate.

For six years now we have proposed solutions like 'assured trader' status to reduce bureaucracy, but these concepts fell on deaf ears.

If the government is serious about protecting UK businesses and keeping prices affordable for consumers, they need to stop procrastinating and listen, adapt, and deploy these types of solutions now.


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