Lye Cross Farm lorry

Source: Lye Cross Farm 

Lye Cross Farm says new health certification requirements are too narrow

Dairy exports to the EU risk coming to a standstill due to “differing interpretations” over the bloc’s revised export health certificates (EHCs), cheesemaker Lye Cross Farm has warned.

The new paperwork required exporters “to prove cow residency in order for the vet to be able to approve an EHC”, said the Bristol-based supplier’s sales and marketing director Ben Hutchins – throwing up a potentially intractable dilemma for cheese exporters once an April deadline to start using only the new documentation kicks in.

“Unfortunately the EHC only allows the producer to tick one box that says the animal has either been resident in the UK for 90 days, has been imported from the EU or has been imported from an approved third country – you can’t tick more than one,” Hutchins said. 

The process entails border checks by vets – a requirement that has prompted other exporters, including those in the meat sector, to call on the UK government to agree to a veterinary deal with the EU to smooth over some post-Brexit food trade hitches.

“If you have a herd with a mix of origin or suppliers with a mix then the vet cannot complete the EHC and we will not be able to export to the EU,” Hutchins said.

For cheesemakers, the requirement could mean picking back through years of herd origin paperwork and supplier details, according to Hutchins.

“We sell cheese up to two years old, so we will need to review each supplying farm and all of their cattle purchases for the two years prior to export, where they are from and whether the milk has been used within 90 days of arrival in UK,” he said.

Fish and dairy exporters complained the new EHCs, which were introduced in January, were published at short notice and were being interpreted differently depending on the officials and vets on duty.

The teething problems prompted the UK and EU to allow the old EHCs to be used until April.

“It’s been very helpful up to now,” said Hutchins of the deal to accept the old certifications.

But if the two sides do not agree an extension or a further revision of the new certifications, then trade could stall, he warned.

“I can’t see anyone being able to export,” Hutchins said. “Soon we will be taking orders for delivery past April and may not be able to provide sufficient evidence to the vets to enable them to approve the new EHCs.”

“They all have differing interpretations,” Hutchins said of border requirements across EU member states. “The BCPs [border control posts] are still learning,” he said. “New rules come in and make it difficult.”