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Food Prices 'Set to Soar Again' With New Brexit Checks Costing Businesses Thousands Every Month

After years of delays, physical checks on animal products and plants began yesterday on imports coming into the UK from Europe on Tuesday.

Meat, fish, dairy, plants and flowers arriving in Dover and Folkestone will now be inspected at Border Control Points, including at a 230-acre site in Sevington in Kent, under new government plans.  

“Medium risk” and “high risk” goods now require health certificates too, which in the case of animal products need to be signed off by a vet to show they meet UK standards - which are currently the same as EU standards.

Last year, the government estimated this bureaucracy, which it says is necessary to protect the UK from infectious diseases, will add £330 million a year to the cost of importing goods.

Industry bodies, hauliers, and importers have long warned the new Brexit rules will significantly increase costs - which they feel will inevitably hike up prices on supermarket shelves for UK consumers.

The Head of the Fresh Food Consortium Nigel Jenney told LBC: "It’s going to cost the industry approximately an extra £200 million a year but in the reality, it’s going to cost small business much more.

"For a high-street wholesaler, we envisage it could cost £60,000 per year.

"We will see material cost increases that will ultimately lead to food inflation or alternatively, in a worse-case situation, shortages on the shelves."

He’s also concerned physical inspections will slow the delivery of goods which could mean some foods ending up with a shorter use-by window.

"It’s likely inspections will take around four hours. We’ve had members recently held for several hours sometimes 24 hours on occasions," he said.

"This is a fundamental change - we are trading highly perishable products which have a very limited shelf life.

"We have built supply chains that get goods from A to B very quickly and that process has now been comprised."

Richard McKenna runs Provender Nurseries in Swanley - importing plants from all over Europe. 

He said any delays in the inspection process could mean they’d have to throw plants away.

"We’ve got two to three days maximum at the back of a truck so if trucks are delayed by 24 hours, by the time they arrive, they could be absolutely destroyed.

"We might incur all that cost and then we have to throw the plants away and that’s a huge waste.

"We’ve spent over £100,000 converting one of the barn sheds into a Border Control Point on site to carry out the checks."

The cost of the new physical checks will also take its toll on farmers.

Guy Singh-Watson runs Riverford Organic farmers - a chain of farms in Devon and France - and said: "It’s certainly costing us a million pounds a year to comply with post-Brexit arrangements.

"It’s frustrating that million pounds a year could be better spent on putting up solar panels, windmills, planting trees - it’s just flushing it down the drain."

The checks are already deterring some European traders from exporting to the UK – because of extra costs and added paperwork.

Ian Shuttlewood is a Director at PML Seafrigo and already operates a Border Control Point in Hythe in Kent for food inspections. 

He said: "Some people are saying I’m just not going go to the UK anymore, we’ll leave it to some of the bigger businesses that can afford and accept extra costs. 

"It’s not that goods now aren’t coming over - there is just less people offering that service which then means prices will go up. 

"As more cost is added at one end it’s got to be paid for somewhere and unfortunately it’s always the consumer that ends up paying - they will see costs go up in shops over the next few months."

A government spokesperson said: "These border checks are fundamental to protecting the UK’s food supply chain, farmers and natural environment against costly diseases reaching our shores and our detailed analysis has shown they will have minimal impact on food prices and consumers."


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