Fresh produce importers are facing the prospect of additional inland compliance checks in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In new advice on fresh fruit and vegetable marketing standards issued just two weeks before the Brexit date of 29 March, Defra said that horticultural inspectors will carry out additional compliance checks inland to ensure that EU fruit and vegetables entering the UK market are of high quality and comply with UK marketing standards.
In a key clarification, it was made clear that marketing standards checks will not take place at the border, and that marketing standards processes at UK borders will not change in the short term if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The arrangements are set to be temporary given Defra said the process would likely change following a government review.
Different processes apply for green banana imports from the EU, with importers told to contact the PEACH helpdesk or the SASA Horticulture and Marketing Unit as appropriate.
Horticultural inspectors will continue to assess fruit and vegetables travelling in transit from third countries through the EU to the UK to determine whether an inspection is required at the border and ensure that they comply with the UK’s marketing standards, according to the Defra notice.
For produce imported via a non-EU third country, marketing standards checks will continue to be carried out at the border, Defra said. If produce is regulated by both marketing standards and plant health, multiple inspections will only be carried out for imports that are assessed as being very high risk.
The UK will continue to accept certificates of conformity issued by countries in the Approved Inspection Scheme (AIS). Most imports from countries on the AIS scheme will not require routine marketing standards checks, but a small sample will be randomly selected for inspections.
Produce from businesses on the Approved Trader Scheme (ATS) will be classified as low risk and will not usually require marketing standards checks.
Certificates for exports
Defra warned that suppliers may need to make additional preparations “to comply with EU and UK marketing standards regulations and ensure a smooth process if you export fruit and vegetables to the EU.”
Fruit and vegetables subject to Specific Marketing Standards (SMS) include apples, citrus, kiwi fruit, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, table grapes, lettuce, sweet peppers and tomatoes.
Companies exporting these products to EU or third countries will need to apply for a UK-issued certificate of conformity for their produce to clear UK customs. They can do this by using the PEACH system in England and Wales or contacting the SASA Horticulture and Marketing Unit in Scotland and DAERA in Northern Ireland.
For exports to the EU, firms may also need a certificate of conformity issued by EU inspection agencies as the EU may not accept UK-issued certificates if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, Defra warned. “The UK government is working with the EU to simplify these processes, but you’re advised to get both UK and EU-issued certificates of conformity for exit day,” it said.
“How you apply for an EU-issued certificate of conformity varies for each EU member state. You’ll need to contact the appropriate authority at the destination country for guidance on applying for a certificate.
“If you import fruit and vegetables into the UK from a third country and a proportion of your consignment is re-exported to the EU, your consignment will need to undergo both import and export processes.