Freshfel Europe, which represents the interests of the fresh fruit and vegetables sector in Europe, has urged the EU and UK to make a 'last joint effort' to conclude negotiations on a post-Brexit trade agreement, or risk significant port congestion in the new year.
The UK accounts for around three million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetable exports from the European Union each year, while the EU accounts for some 40% of demand for UK fruit and vegetables, potentially creating a perfect storm if a trade deal isn't agreed.
Urgent dialogue is needed on 'technical, trade facilitation and contingency measures to minimise port congestion disruption in January 2021 and beyond', according to Freshfel, including clarification on import checks and inland sites, electronic certification and fast-track channels for perishable produce.
“There is an urgent need for clarity in technical, trade facilitation and contingency measures to ensure trade flows continue without major disruptions after 1 January 2021," commented Freshfel Europe general delegate Philippe Binard. "Fruit and vegetables are a highly perishable essential commodity and they must be able to continue to reach UK consumers in a timely manner and with the same level of high quality."
In the absence of a EU-UK trade agreement, tariffs of between 2% and 16% will be imposed on fruit and vegetable products exported from the EU to the UK, with particularly high duties on products such as peaches (16%), clementines and mandarins (16%), grapes (14%) and cucumbers (12%).
This could have a 'devastating impact' for producers, Freshfel Europe said, meaning excess product could remain in the EU-27, matched with lesser availability and higher prices in the UK.
Binard noted that currently, the fresh produce sector is 'extremely concerned' that so many details pertaining to the UK's future relationship with the EU remain unknown, 'such as the number of UK inland sites foreseen, the percentages of UK checks different commodities will be subject to, and the potential solutions for electronic transmission of phytosanitary and other certification between the EU and the UK'.
The sector is urging EU and UK authorities to establish a 'fast track' or green lane channel for highly perishable produce, in order to reduce potential congestion whatever the outcome of the negotiations.
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine