It is easier for the EU to import lamb from New Zealand than from Wales because of Brexit, MPs have been told.
Pete Robertson, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation Cymru, was asked about the barriers that businesses are facing due to the trade agreement Boris Johnson signed with the European Union.
The evidence heard during the Welsh Affairs Committee meeting has been described as “sobering” for businesses across Wales by Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake, and he has said that discussions between the UK and EU are “urgently needed” to resolve trade disruption at the borders.
Mr Robertson said there has been an issue with the mutual recognition of vets, which has made exporting Welsh lamb into the EU far more difficult.
He also noted an example of an exporter who had previously only needed two pieces of paperwork to export his goods, which has now increased to 48, and said that some deliveries had been stopped due to the use of blue rather than black ink, as well as stamps being placed incorrectly on export health certificates.
Mr Robertson said: “To give a specific example, it’s easier to import into the EU New Zealand lamb than it is Welsh lamb.
“The checks in the EU, there’ll be 20 times more checks of Welsh lamb going into the EU than there is New Zealand lamb, and that’s because of the mutual recognition of the vet procedures, and actually we use a similar system to the EU system obviously because of legacy, and New Zealand use a different system.
“In terms of how we move forward, the great challenge is that there’s not one magic bullet or two magic bullets. It’s a case of helping businesses and helping the sector try and move through.
“One of the areas to a certain degree is we’re fighting with what we’re trying to deal with at the moment. However one of the challenges is what’s coming ahead. Currently the majority of the industry’s headaches is around exports.
“From the first of April we’re going to have quite a significant challenge with imports and until that goes through it’s difficult to understand the scale of the impact on the business, but clearly the food supply chains will be under pressure that’s for sure.”
Mr Robertson also added that costs for SMEs to send samples of food from the UK to Sweden have increased from £30 to £85 and that one lorry containing meat worth £100,000 had been rejected due to one carcass falling off a hook.
Speaking after the session, Mr Lake said: “Sobering examples have been highlighted this morning which sadly reflect the problems businesses across Wales are facing when trading with the EU.
“It’s clear that further negotiations, as allowed under the Trade and Cooperation agreement, are required between the UK and EU with a view to achieve a mutual equivalence agreement to reduce non-tariff barriers.
“The UK Government must pursue these issues with urgency if we are to avoid businesses – including farmers, wholesalers, hauliers and fishermen – having to take difficult decisions.”
The session followed a questioning session with the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, in which Ben Lake said: “Lamb exporters in west Wales have raised concerns about the delays they are facing at EU ports, reporting that some shipments have been held by customs officials for two to three days because of to the supposed issues with animal export health certificates.
“Can the Secretary of State enlighten us as to whether he expects an urgent resolution to this problem?”
Mr Hart responded: “I don’t know how urgent would be defined in the EU at the moment, but certainly there is an urgency to resolve some of these problems.”
Mr Hart admitted that while some of the disruption is down to “teething issues”, others may be “longer-term structural issues”.