The media briefing at the start of this week in Dublin Port revealed that the port was coping with the new checking arrangements but this is because it is only operating at 50% of capacity so far this year.
Dublin Port typically handles 500,000 units arriving from Britain each year and analysis carried out by the Department of Agriculture suggests that about 40% of these (205,000) contain products of animal or plant origin.
That means 200,000 checks on goods where none were required before and while that has been manageable with small volumes going through the port, the real test is likely to arrive this week and next week as the port returns to normal volumes of trade.
Problems so far
The Irish Farmers Journal spoke to Helen Sheridan, a senior inspector with the Department, who said the main problem so far has been some UK companies shipping product to Ireland haven’t been notifying Irish authorities in advance as they are required to do.
The problem with availability of vets for this work in Britain was also confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal by Nick Allen
She also said getting veterinary health certificates was a problem for British exporters. The problem with availability of vets for this work in Britain was also confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal by Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), which represent factories in Britain.
Products with a short shelf life like chocolate, yoghurt and meat have been arriving from Britain without the correct documentation
Sheridan warned that no food imported from Britain can leave Dublin Port without the required documentation being available for inspectors.
Products with a short shelf life like chocolate, yoghurt and meat have been arriving from Britain without the correct documentation.
Return to full capacity
She was also of the view that the system has coped well so far because of low volumes, but believes stocks of ambient foods and frozen products built up before Christmas will now need to be replenished.
If increased flows of goods arrive in the coming days with incorrect documentation, there is a big risk of serious delays in the port.
Sheridan says it is vital that British companies exporting to Ireland make sure the documentation is in order to minimise the delay when arriving in the port from Holyhead.
Part of the difficulty for British exporters is they had no lead in time to prepare for the new rules of trade on 1 January.
Software on the UK side was put in place just before Christmas and companies only received instructions within a few hours of the changeover on New Year’s Eve.
This meant many British exporters were unprepared, and industry sources have told the Irish Farmers Journal that even global burger giant McDonald’s experienced delays because it wasn’t in compliance with what was required for exporting from Britain to Ireland.
Frustration for British exporters
All sectors of the UK food industry that export to the EU are feeling the pain of the reintroduction of border controls for trade with the EU.
There have been numerous reports of fish not getting to EU markets on time and the BMPA also complained this week about trucks having to turn back after several days waiting for paperwork to get sorted.
The EU (and UK) have one of the world’s longest standing trade agreements with New Zealand for sheepmeat
Last week the National Pig Association was highlighting the 30% level of inspections UK product was receiving on entering the EU compared with the 1% checks applied to New Zealand sheep meat imports.
This, more than anything, from an agricultural perspective, reflects the minimum nature of the EU-UK trade agreement.
The EU (and UK) have one of the world’s longest standing trade agreements with New Zealand for sheepmeat. Similarly Canada has reduced level of checks under the CETA agreement.
So far all the problems have been for goods entering the EU and Northern Ireland from Britain. There have been no problems for exports to Britain from Ireland.
This is at least partially because the UK isn’t enforcing health certification until 1 April and physical inspections won’t begin until 1 July.
There has been no such implementation period for British exporters.
It is this back load that is the cause of present frustrations
The new trading rules have also created huge problems for hauliers who deliver Irish exports to Britain and take a load back to complete the journey.
It is this back load that is the cause of present frustrations.
In time, exporters will become more familiar with the rules and some of the delays can be avoided but the reality is nothing works as smoothly as a single market for deliveries between countries and at least some level of disruption for trade with Britain is the new reality