The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced its plan to manage the Export Health Certification needs of the agri-food sector if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
In a no deal scenario, the potential demand for Export Health Certificates (EHCs) is likely to exceed the capacity to supply from vets and support staff.
On a contingency basis, and in line with DAERA’s Reasonable Worst Case Scenario planning, the number of certificates required per annum could increase from the current 18,000 to 1.9 million or more.
This rise is due to the emergence of a new sector requiring EHCs – food retail and distribution, which will account for approximately 75% of this certification requirement. The actual demand will depend on the ability of businesses to maintain existing patterns of trade, given the broad range of third country requirements they will need to meet if they wish to continue to trade with the EU.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey, said: “While trading patterns and practices will adjust and the need for all 1.9 million certificates is unlikely to fully materialise, we have planned for the reasonable worst case scenario in a no deal scenario. We have scaled up as much as possible but still, demand may exceed capacity.
“DAERA will continue to work with our stakeholders to help them navigate the changes that a no deal Brexit will bring with regard to EHCs and will do our best to find solutions and keep trade flowing.”
DAERA has been working intensively to build its capacity and capability in an attempt to meet the needs of the agri-food sector as far as possible.
- Reprioritised the work of up to 100 vets and is seeking more;
- Trained around 300 existing staff to operate as Trade Certification Support Officers;
- Recruited to fill 100 additional administrative posts.
In addition to refocusing its own resources, DAERA has been working across public sector lines, tapping into the existing resources and building further capacity where possible, including:
- Providing additional training to enable local councils to increase their capacity to provide EHCs for fish and eggs;
- Allocating £2 million funding to local councils to support this additional work;
Through this approach, DAERA is seeking to ensure that it can continue to provide EHCs for primary processors of meat and dairy products, aiming to increase its capacity from 18,000 certificates, to almost 400,000 per year.
To meet the emerging needs of the food retail and distribution sector, DAERA has been working alongside private veterinary practitioners to mobilise their capacity to provide certificates to service this new demand, as well as continuing to certify exports of live animals and animal-by-products. DAERA is intensifying training for both the private sector and its own vets to ensure they have the skills and capacity required.
Dr Huey said: “Over the past few months, DAERA has re-directed its resources and is now aiming to have the capacity to provide up to 400,000 EHCs per annum for meat and dairy exports, continuing to deliver as we always have, but on a greater scale.
“We are working with the private veterinary sector to help it meet the demand to certify exports of live animals, animal by-products and the new needs of the retail and distribution sectors.
“This is an unprecedented time for Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector and a time of great uncertainty. We have explored, and will continue to explore, every possible avenue to scale up our capacity and that of the private sector, but the resources and solutions available to us are finite and the demand for EHCs may well exceed the supply in a no deal scenario.
“Businesses wishing to export into the EU will need to modify their practices to comply with the many new requirements if they are to continue to trade. There is information available for producers about the EHC process.
“We would encourage producers to look into this now and take reasonable steps to prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a Deal on 31 October.”