Proposals to help facilitate the movement of pedigree livestock across the Irish Sea have been put forward by the president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).
Speaking to Westminster MPs on Wednesday, Victor Chestnutt said the rules that came into effect on 1 January mean that the pedigree livestock trade between Britain and NI is “all but finished”.
“We are now faced with the possibility that if we go to a sale [in Britain], and for some reason don’t sell, we are not allowed to take the animal home for six months,” he said.
The Bushmills farmer maintained the new rules under the NI protocol part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement meant that pedigree shows in Britain were now “completely closed” for NI breeders.
We are very concerned that we can’t get some sort of an easement
The issue stems from NI remaining aligned to certain EU rules, while Britain has left the EU’s regulatory zone, and is classed as a third country. The current EU Export Health Certificate to accompany a live breeding animal moving from a third country requires livestock to be resident for at least six months before going into the EU’s regulatory zone (which includes NI).
Chestnutt’s solution is to allow this six-month residency period to be completed in NI, instead of the animal having to stay in Britain.
“We are very concerned that we can’t get some sort of an easement. I don’t think it should be impossible. Doing that standstill back in NI would solve a lot of those issues,” Chestnutt maintained.
Another trade problem surrounds the 7,000 mainly Blackface hoggets that are owned by NI farmers but are stuck on winter grazing in Scotland. These sheep are not allowed into the EU’s regulatory zone because they are not from scrapie monitored flocks.
The grace period was wonderful for the supermarkets and retail, but we didn’t get a grace period
Chestnutt pointed out that various rules under the NI protocol have been relaxed for the food industry for up to six months and he suggested the same approach should be given to local livestock breeders.
“We would like to see a bit of movement. The grace period was wonderful for the supermarkets and retail, but we didn’t get a grace period,” he said.