Northern Ireland Protocol: What disruption has it been causing to food supply?

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The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has outlined any disruption being caused to Northern Ireland’s food supply due to the Protocol.

The Agriculture Minister was asked to do so by Upper Bann DUP MLA, Diane Dodds.

Responding to Mrs Dodds’ question, he said: “You will be aware of Northern Ireland’s obligations to continue to align with the EU’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) rules and my firm opposition to the detrimental impact of the mandated additional rules on the intra-United Kingdom (UK) movement of animals, goods and products, from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI).”

Mr Poots said any restrictions on the supply of food to Northern Ireland are “solely a consequence of the unnecessary requirements created by the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

“My officials have reported that, since the introduction of the Protocol, importing mixed loads of agri-food products from GB into NI has been problematic for the haulage industry, due to complex certification requirements, increased paperwork and the associated increased costs.

“The driver shortage is compounding the inefficiencies created at collection points in GB by the additional checks and paperwork that hauliers need to complete before the goods are permitted to move.”

Mr Poots revealed smaller independent traders are reporting that their GB-based suppliers are having “difficulties” moving products to Northern Ireland.

He continued: “The increased administrative burdens are proving too difficult, very time-consuming and costs have increased; resulting in some suppliers no longer trading with NI businesses.

“The Protocol has resulted in some chilled meat products being banned (prohibited and restricted products) from movement into NI from GB.

“The majority of the major retailers in Northern Ireland are now locally sourcing prohibited and restricted (P&R) products.”

The minister met recently with major food retailers who expressed concerns over the level of checks and documentation required for food movements from GB to NI since 1 January 2021.

“This additional bureaucracy has resulted in increased costs, delays and uncertainty of trade and food supply,” Mr Poots added.

“Whilst I am assured that there is currently no immediate risk to food supplies in NI, I remain very concerned with the levels of the current food checking arrangements and the significant burdens they are placing on both retailers and consumers.

“I have been consistent in stating that I firmly believe they are unsustainable in the long term and the processes need removed.”

The DAERA Minister met with Lord Frost and Secretary of State recently to further discuss issues arising from the practical application of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He stated: “I have clearly presented my assessment of its social and economic impact upon Northern Ireland, as part of the UK.

“I will continue to engage with my ministerial colleagues across the UK to ensure all available flexibilities, derogations and potential mitigations that will help to minimise the current impact on trade,” Mr Poots ended.

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