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Importers fear supplier fatigue as Gov’t delays new border check system again

Posted: 1 September 2023

By Greg Pitcher

Wholesalers food suppliers lorries Brexit delays
Importers fear supplier fatigue as Gov’t delays new border check system again

Fine food importers have slammed the impact of Brexit on business after reports surfaced of yet another delay to bringing in new border checks.

A source described as a Government insider told the Financial Times that a new regime of health certification for certain animal and plant imports from the EU would no longer come into force in October. Instead, the start of the long-awaited Border Target Operating Model will not take place until 2024.

A draft version of the model, put out to consultation earlier this year, said the £1bn changes would replace “cumbersome and frustrating” existing import checks with a “more targeted, risk-based system underpinned by evidence and data”. But industry figures said the proposals had only created further headaches for food importers.

Nick Carlucci, sales director at Italian produce specialist Tenuta Marmorelle, described a further delay in implementing the new system as “inevitable”. “The fact is that not everyone was ready,” he said. “We had some suppliers that were really struggling. There are some that do very small amounts of business in the UK so were willing to leave this market completely.” Even for those firms still willing to send goods here, the proposed model will be damaging, Carlucci warned.

“The costs will be passed onto the final customer and could hurt sales.” Fran Pombal, buying manager at Spanish food specialists Brindisa, said he had been working with suppliers for months to ready them for the incoming rules.

“No-one likes uncertainty,” he said. “I would rather the system didn’t come in at all but if it has to happen then it has to happen now. “Suppliers will stop listening to us soon.” Pombal called for the UK Government to find a way of recognising EU certification.

He added that small producers “look at us differently at trade shows” since Brexit. Kamil Shah, co-founder of Greek importer Olive Branch, said that if the Government confirmed the latest delay, it would be “the clearest admission thus far that Brexit is making our lives more expensive”.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government remains committed to delivering the best border in the world. “We are reflecting on the valuable feedback provided by a range of businesses and industry stakeholders and will publish the Border Target Operating Model shortly.

This article first appeared in the September 2023 edition of Fine Food Digest.