Nigel Jenney Voices Sector Concerns- New UK Border Checks Stir Industry Backlash,

Nigel Jenney Voices Sector Concerns- New UK Border Checks Stir Industry Backlash,

30 Apr 2024

As of today, rigorous new border checks for meat, plants, and flowers imported from Europe have commenced, stirring significant unease among UK importers. These checks, aimed at bolstering biosecurity, are seen by many as excessively costly and complex, a sentiment strongly voiced by Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium.

Jenney criticises the new system, which mandates identity and physical inspections for goods deemed medium-risk, such as meat and cut flowers, with only 1% to 30% of consignments to be randomly selected for checking. However, all high-risk goods, including live animals, will now undergo mandatory border inspections.

While some farming groups have welcomed the initiative, arguing that it levels the playing field with EU producers who have been subjected to similar scrutiny since Brexit, Jenney contends that the new measures are impractical for perishable goods.

He highlights the operational shortcomings, particularly the timing of inspections. "Our goods are highly perishable and rely on a just-in-time delivery model. Unfortunately, the approved commercial facilities for inspections close at 7pm, missing the window when 95% of our consignments arrive," Jenney explains.

This timing mismatch means that vehicles either must wait until the next day or divert to government facilities like Shevington, incurring steep fees. Jenney illustrates the disparity in costs: "Using an industry facility could cost around £100 per inspection, if selected, whereas Shevington charges are about £5,000 for every consignment, regardless of inspection."

Jenney has publicly criticised the government's approach, calling it "obscenely expensive" and "highly bureaucratic," and fears it will make the UK the "laughing stock of Europe."

Despite years of consultations and planning, he argues that the checks were not designed with efficiency in mind, potentially harming UK businesses and consumers alike.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has initiated two pilot programmes to explore alternative inspection methods using new technology and business data, yet Jenney remains sceptical. "These might address some issues, but they are at least a year away, and we need solutions today," he states.

The situation underscores the tension between regulatory intent and practical implementation, with significant repercussions for the UK's trade relations and internal market operations. Jenney's advocacy highlights a critical debate on the balance between security and operational viability, reflecting broader industry frustrations.