The UK’s seafood sector has reported delays to some consignments bound for the European continent in the wake of the EU Commission tightening animal health rules earlier this month.
“We have been made aware that the new rules around export health certificates [EHCs] are causing issues with some deliveries of Scottish seafood, in that not every European country is interpreting the regulations in the same way,” said Donna Fordyce, CEO of Seafood Scotland.
“This has resulted in some instances of goods being rejected, by French border control for example,” she said.
A Defra spokesman said “we encourage the EU to ensure all member state border control posts are consistent in their interpretation of the requirements”.
The requirements are “impacting parts of the seafood sector”, a spokeswoman for industry body Seafish said, with delays to consignments reported due to “some uncertainty around the interpretation of when a vet approval is needed”.
The Defra spokesman added “we are in discussions with the EU Commission to rapidly find a solution for the new fish EHC, in order to provide clarity to traders and certifiers”.
Fordyce said Seafood Scotland had “been reassured that the UK and Scottish governments are seeking to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency, and we hope that the EU authorities are also working to sort things out from their end”.
New export health certificates were published in mid-January after the EU updated its requirements for animal goods entering the bloc from non-members.
Dairy exporters had earlier reported confusion over the revised requirements, prompting delays to shipments over the weekend following 15 January.
“The temporary fix is Brussels seems to have agreed that people can use the old certificates for the time being,” said Andrew Kuyk, director general of the Provision Trade Federation.
Defra has advised exporters to contact border control posts at the intended destination to confirm in advance if old certificates are acceptable.
Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association, said the sector’s exporters were “not having a huge amount of problems” with the certificates but warned “inconsistency of border control posts on the continent” and interpretations of requirements varying “from one port to the next”.
Trade union Unite told ITV that feedback from hauliers suggested the queues were caused in part by the government’s goods vehicle movement service, an IT platform for exporters and importers.
Doug Bannister, the port’s CEO, had earlier told the BBC the queues were of “just a few hours” and could be attributed a spike in traffic as trade picked up after Christmas.
It comes as Defra separately announced plans this week to negotiate access to Greenland’s waters for British fishing boats, which if granted would bring “significant benefits” to the industry. Trade between the two countries was worth £10 million in 2020, when coldwater shrimp worth an estimated £49m was additionally shipped from Greenland to the UK.