British feed companies are seeing lost revenue, delays and increased costs sending goods to Northern Irish and EU customers, warned industry body, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), which referenced the onset of such difficulties in emailed comments to this site in January.
"The export situation has deteriorated [since mid-January] in that what we initially considered were teething problems are now seen as issues over non-harmonised interpretation of EU sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements and some extremely complex issues surrounding the export of feeds containing animal byproducts," James McCulloch, head of feed sector, AIC, told us today.
Premixtures and complementary feed movements are most impacted, he said. But compound feed going to NI and specialist compounds like fish feed heading to Ireland are also on the AIC's radar in this respect, said McCulloch.
After months of negotiations, on December 24, the UK and the European Union (EU) finally announced a deal had been agreed between both parties that would define their future relationship. It came into effect on December 31, 2020. The current implementation of that EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA), though, is causing significant problems in the export of specific feed products.
In preparation for EU exit, UK manufacturers and supplier of feeds and feed materials were assured that Export Health Certificates (EHCs) would not be required on exports of feeds and feed materials containing no animal products to the EU or Northern Ireland. Nearly six weeks in, this is not the case, said the AIC.
Last month, we spoke to Declan Billington, CEO of John Thompson and Sons, the largest animal feed processor in Northern Ireland (NI), who told us about some of the challenges the TCA between the EU and the UK has created as regards the import of feed related products from GB into NI.
Political mediation needed
In a letter sent to the UK’s minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove MP, Robert Sheasby, AIC chief executive, commented:
“After a month of trying to achieve technical solutions to the export problems faced by feed businesses, it is clear that this issue cannot be resolved without political intervention.
“Problems have been particularly challenging for feeds containing animal by products such as milk and milk derived products, gelatin and collagen, hydrolyzed proteins, eggs, dicalcium phosphate, chondroitin and glucosamine.
“The requirement to complete Export Health Certificates (EHC)s for feeds containing these products is particularly challenging as suitable EHCs do not exist and GB suppliers are not listed on EU approved establishment lists to supply such feeds into the EU.
“Our members, ranging from multinational businesses to SMEs, have found no way of practically exporting such feeds to the EU and Northern Ireland.”
Sheasby said it was “troubling” that each EU member state has different procedures for importing feeds from GB, leaving British businesses at a loss in how to proceed. “We have raised this issue frequently in the last month with Defra [Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and APHA [The Animal and Plant Health Agency] colleagues, however we have not been given any clear guidance on how to resolve this.”
The AIC has asked Minister Gove to raise the issue with the EU Commission as a matter of urgency, in order to achieve the clarification and certainty that feed sector businesses require.
Pigs backed up on farms
The UK pig sector is experiencing similar exporting constraints, following the implementation of the agreement on December 31, 2020.
UK pig representatives held crisis talks with government officials earlier this week to discuss a 'perfect storm' of events that has seen thousands of pigs build up on farms due to both COVID-19 problems in pork plants, coupled with a lack of China re-certification for several abattoirs, and the export disruption since January.