Retailers' leaders have told the government it needs to act more quickly to allow exports of meat and dairy products to the EU to resume once foot and mouth is eradicated.

When export restrictions were lifted last month, it took days before Tesco, M&S and Asda were able to resume sending British products to stores in Ireland and Ulster, which left retailers struggling to fill shelves, said the BRC.

It called on Defra to ensure draft export certificates were ready before any removal of export restrictions by Brussels once an outbreak of FMD was under control. The BRC also urged Defra to ensure sufficient veterinary and administrative staff were on hand.

"There was a delay in getting certificates in place after last month's outbreak and this made it difficult for retailers with stores in other member states and, to an extent, Northern Ireland to export certain lines," said BRC director Andrew Opie.

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