Posted: 03/02/2021

Post-Brexit documentation issues disrupting British cheese exports

Post-Brexit documentation issues disrupting British cheese exports

Exports of British cheese are facing huge levels of disruption due to complex post-Brexit trading rules, which are threatening to hamper the previously buoyant sector.

Goods leaving mainland Britain for the EU and Northern Ireland now require customs declarations, which are delaying shipments and adding significant costs. Cheese also requires an export health certificate, issued by a vet who must physically inspect each consignment under rules governing ‘products of animal origin’.

Neal’s Yard Dairy, which previously shipped to France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Germany, has had to change its distribution model after its logistics partner Nagel decided to no longer carry products of animal origin because of the challenges involved. The cheesemonger has since found an alternative logistics partner but is currently having to route all deliveries through France.

“Nothing is clear or certain at the moment,” said Gemma Gardner, export manager at Neal’s Yard. “There are huge hurdles to negotiate and extra costs involved. We previously shipped on a Friday to arrive Sunday, but we’re now having to allow 12-14 days for deliveries, which means we can’t send short shelf-life products. The added paperwork is also costing around £400 extra per consignment.”

Sales of British cheese to Northern Ireland, which is still subject to EU rules, are also being impacted. Michael Thomson, owner of Mike’ Fancy Cheese in Belfast, has been forced to stop stocking Baron Bigod, Rollright and St Jude because of the new paperwork requirements. “The amount of hassle means it’s not worth it,” he said.

At The Artisan Cheesemonger in Holywood, around 60% of sales come from British cheeses. “I’m very worried,” said owner Sam Curry. “We’ve already seen one supplier say they now require a minimum pallet order of £1,000, which will be transited through Dublin. 

“It will add days to the delivery time, but the rigmarole of placing the order is nearly beyond comprehension.”

The Fine Cheese Co, which previously supplied retailers in NI by courier, has been forced to halt deliveries because the new requirements would add an estimated £150 per parcel. However, the company is looking to set up a hub there, so larger consignments could be sent and distributed in NI and the Republic, although this is likely to take several months.  

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