President of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) Andy McGowan stated that UK Government clarity was needed about the practical and technical aspects of how Scottish companies could continue to trade with EU customers. Without it, the whole of Scotland’s farming and meat processing chain would be plunged into a period of ‘great uncertainty’, he claimed in the letter.
McGowan’s comments followed the British Meat Processors Association’s warning last week that inadequate Brexit preparations threatened more than £1bn of annual meat exports and thousands of jobs in the meat and livestock sector.
SAMW have called for clarity on a range of issues including health marks, groupage deliveries and veterinary support.
“If left unresolved, this lack of action could cause untold and long-lasting damage to the livestock supply chain throughout the UK, and especially here in Scotland where livestock farming is central to the viability of rural communities,” said McGowan.
“Trade with our customer base in Europe was worth an estimated £85m in 2019, so greatly helps to underpin some 3,000 jobs across the Scottish red meat processing sector along with 1,000s more in the primary livestock farming sector. We therefore believe that it is crucial that all current red meat export activity to the EU market is maintained.”
He added that there was a “significant amount” of intra-company trade between processing plants in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The lack of clarity around practical procedures required to move meat between these two parts of the UK was a “serious concern”, he said.
Northern Ireland Protocol
The letter also stated the framework proposed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, should be ‘urgently revised’. In particular, existing anomalies and grey areas of interpretation which could give processors in NI a commercial advantage over their counterparts in GB should be addressed, it urged.
Finally, McGowan made the point that all issues raised by the SAMW’s letter were ‘within the gift of UK ministers’ and were therefore separate from ongoing trade negotiations between Brussels and Whitehall.
SAMW’s list of ‘practical requests’ includes:
· UK clarity on the health mark to be applied for processors located in GB and NI, and when the new format could be rolled out for use in production;
· UK chief veterinary officer communications on certification and health mark arrangements with opposite numbers in third country competent authorities and acknowledgement and agreement from them to start using these marks on exports to their territories;
· a workable scheme allowing groupage and mixed loads bound for the EU and advanced knowledge of the details for companies to adapt their product despatch procedures;
· enough affordable veterinary (or other) resource to provide the significantly increased volume of health certification to the timetable needed by industry;
· access to health certification documentation to be largely automated, business friendly and at low cost.