Shelley Pierre, commercial director at European pallet pooling specialist IPP, argues for new thinking on post-Brexit fresh produce checks 

IPP commercial director Shelley Pierre

IPP commercial director Shelley Pierre

New post-Brexit rules governing the biosecurity of fresh produce entering the UK will not only see disagreements over increased costs and operational viability ‘kicking off’. The consequential delays could see fruit and veg literally ‘going off’ while waiting for an ‘all-clear’ certificate.

The new Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) classifies all plant and animal products coming from the EU and puts them into three risk groups: high, medium and low. In its wisdom, the UK government has placed many fruit and vegetable imports into the medium risk category, meaning multi-page documentation must be provided confirming its provenance and safety at the new border points, which opened at the end of April.

With most fresh produce arriving in the UK in mixed loads, questions have been raised about potential delays and how to unpick the consignments in a timely fashion, particularly as there are question marks over the numbers of inspectors mandated to issue phytosanitary certificates at the border.

The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) argues that the process will add £200 million in additional import costs, fees that will negatively impact small fruit and veg enterprises and ultimately be passed onto British consumers.

It has been suggested that these businesses are empowered to manage the integrity of the product through the supply chain, with regular checks from UK border controls to cut down on the paperwork and maintain the steady flow of fresh produce from the EU.

As a business involved in the circular and sustainable supply chain, we understand the dynamics of the right product arriving at the right time at the right place and at the right cost. Every time a product is stopped or touched, it adds cost and delay, neither of which are affordable when it comes to perishable produce.

When we talk about ‘farm to fork,’ fresh produce ceases to be so when it does not arrive in a just-grown or picked fashion.

BTOM may prove to be good news for British growers, but what about non-native fruit and veg? And what about choice for British consumers who will have to go without or pay more for the privilege of having not-so-fresh produce on their plates?

Either way, these post-Brexit fruit and veg rules need fresh consideration rather than unnecessary composting.