UK feed exports to EU hit as not all countries applying the same controls

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Nuthawut Somsuk
© GettyImages/Nuthawut Somsuk

Related tags phytosanitary requirements pet food

The AIC, the feed industry representatives in the UK, say challenges persist in terms of exporting feeds to the EU.

While the trade body signaled in January and February that there were extremely complex issues surrounding the export of feeds containing animal by-products, it is now flagging, among other challenges, problems for its members in relation to feeds that contain no animal products.

The AIC outlined the issues as they stand:

  • Non-harmonized implementation of EU feed legislation and official controls regulations (sanitary and phytosanitary requirements) at EU entry points (including border control posts) and by national control authorities.
  • Implementation of EU sanitary and phytosanitary requirements for feeds that contain no animal products and should therefore not be subject to official controls.
  • Concerns that the implementation of equivalent import controls in UK on April 1 will create similar problems for EU and other third country exporters to UK and for their UK customers.

In relation to the actions the AIC is taking, James McCulloch, head of the feed sector at the trade body, told this publication today:

"The implementation of the new Trade and Co-Operation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and EU continues to cause a number of practical barriers to trade. As a result of this newfound difficulty in many sectors, it has formed the central part of AIC activities, across policy, advice, lobbying and external communications.

"We cannot ignore the fact that AIC members are facing difficulties from the TCA now. After exhausting technical solutions for feed and seed members in particular, the AIC wrote to Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove MP, to outline the seriousness of this situation."

In January this year, the AIC compiled a briefing note of the non-tariff barriers that members have been reporting including that major transport partners and couriers had told some UK feed businesses that they were not willing to transport animal feeds that require SPS clearance to the EU due to the complexity involved.

"This briefing has helped form the basis of much of the AIC’s lobbying work with politicians across the UK and has led to a number of helpful meetings. These have included meetings with a number of MPs from across the political spectrum. 

"It is, unfortunately, possible that, as we look ahead to the next stages of the Border Operating Model being implemented, and, with it, phased checks on imported goods, further difficulties will be encountered by members. As ever, we will continue to inform government at all levels on its impact and update members on the latest advice and information."

Extract from AIC letter to Michael Gove, dated February 8, 2021 

"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. After a month of the TCA, this is not the case.

"Our members, ranging from multinational businesses to SMEs, have found no way of practically exporting such feeds to the EU and Northern Ireland. In trying to export these feeds and materials, importing nations in the EU have provided a number of barriers to entry, such as demanding completed EHCs, phytosanitary certificates, entry into TRACES NT and veterinary checks at BCPs, all of which are not required..

"Problems have been particularly challenging for feeds containing animal by products such as milk and milk derived products, gelatine and collagen, hydrolysed proteins, eggs, dicalcium phosphate, chondroitin and glucosamine. The requirement to complete EHCs 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.

"It is very 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 and APHA colleagues, however we have not been given any clear guidance on how to resolve this."

UK pet food exports hurt by red tape

The representative body for the UK pet food industry, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, also recently raised alarm bells over the severe challenges faced by pet food businesses exporting to the EU. 

A survey of the PFMA membership exposed a myriad of problems and highlighted that only one-third of businesses that had attempted exports to the EU had been successful. 

The UK pet food industry is valued at £3bn (US$4,1bn) and in 2019 exported £285m of pet food to the EU versus £45m to the rest of the world. With exports being hugely important to the industry, it said the restrictions are harming businesses.

Michael Bellingham, PFMA chief executive, commented: “We have come against red tape, vet shortages and haulers refusing to accept animal-based products in case they are stopped at the border. Many official veterinarians are unwilling to take on the extra work of certifying animal by-product consignments because they were not confident about what was required.”

Experienced exporter and PFMA member, World Feeds Ltd, said it had been successfully exporting to the US but had come up against numerous barriers trying to move products into the EU from the start of January.    

Brexit pros and cons - the legal perspective

Jennifer Greengrass and Robert Parson, legal experts at Clyde and Co, in a review​ released this week, cast their eyes over the EU-UK deal.

They said it is certainly preferable to the possibility of a no-deal scenario which would have caused significant disruption and uncertainty. But they see a lot of negatives arising from the agreement as well.

“It is undeniable that the UK’s position under the TCA is by no means comparable to the level of economic integration that the UK benefited from as an EU Member State. The TCA clearly results in less market access for the UK. Ultimately, it raises barriers in relation to trade in goods and services as well as in terms of cross-border mobility that did not exist previously and will clearly affect just-in-time supply chains for both food and general merchandise."

The UK government emphasized the importance of the UK’s newfound freedom to negotiate with and to enter into trade agreement with non-EU countries faster than the EU and on its own terms.

Weighing in on that, those specialists said: “The UK is currently looking to negotiate new trade deals with various countries such as Australia, New Zealand, countries in Africa and the US. In that sense, the TCA offers certainty and stability, facilitating any potential negotiations between the UK and such future trading partners, as the advantages of future trade deals with the UK can be more readily assessed now. Nevertheless, it is uncertain whether any potential economic benefits achieved under these new deals could compensate for the loss of market access to the various EU countries which made up a significant part of the UK’s main trading partners.”

Replacing with non-EU exports any substantial portion of the 43% of all UK exports that currently go to the EU - predominantly to Germany, France, Ireland and the Netherlands - is not a realistic ambition, they commented.

A key objective of the UK government was to strive for greater oversight over its own domestic regulations and to be able to diverge from EU regulations.

In this area, the TCA does offer UK policy makers more control over some specific aspects of EU regulations. This could very well allow the UK to attain "first mover advantage" in emerging sectors, in circumstances where it could act quicker than the EU. Nevertheless, under the TCA, the UK has undertaken to uphold certain regulatory principles in many different areas such as e.g. competition law, tax as well as social and environmental standards. The enforcement provisions included in the TCA cover many of these areas. This will prevent the UK, to a certain extent, from adopting fundamentally different legislation which would alter existing standards or change the current safeguards.”

The legal experts added that, more often than not, UK policy makers will have to be cautious of any future significant divergence of approach between the UK and EU regulators, as this could give rise to tariffs or the removal of other benefits under the TCA.

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