IGD - Economics bulletin 05 February

Date : 05 February 2021

Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest developments and guidance on COVID-19 and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.

Northern Ireland Protocol

The government has called for grace periods to be extended for Northern Ireland, to allow businesses more time to adapt to new Irish Sea border processes. This follows the suspension of physical checks on animal and food products at Belfast and Larne ports following concerns about staff safety. Documentary checks that can be conducted remotely are not affected.

Businesses are advised to still prepare for the end of the grace period on 1 April (see key dates section for more details).


Defra has issued updated guidance on the movement of mixed consignments to Northern Ireland (groupage).

Defra will continue to engage with member states and the European Commission to understand if a similar approach can be used more widely. Pilots are expected to begin shortly to test groupage solutions for movement of mixed consignments to the Republic of Ireland.

Rules of origin guidance

Defra is expected to issue further guidance next week on the application of Rules of Origin requirements. See our latest article on Rules of Origin.

Volumes at ports

Freight volumes are reported to be increasing with many sea routes approaching levels typical for this time of year, including the short straits. However, it is not clear that this indicates a substantial increase in export volumes as some hauliers are reportedly returning to Europe with empty trailers to avoid delays.

Volumes between Liverpool and Dublin reportedly remain low. This follows reports that more ferries are sailing directly between Ireland and the European mainland to avoid checks at the border.

Key dates for UK-EU transition and support for businesses

Businesses trading with the EU should be prepared for the introduction of further border controls for the following key dates:

  • 1 April – End of the grace period for supermarkets and their suppliers moving goods into Northern Ireland. All products of animal origin (POAO) exported to Northern Ireland will require Export Health Certificates.
  • 1 April – Products of animal origin and all regulated plants and plant products will require pre-notification and health documentation to be imported into the UK. There may also by physical checks, conducted at the final destination.
  • 30 June – The grace period for sending certain P&R goods from GB to NI ends.
  • 1 July – Products of animal origin and all regulated plants and plant products will be subject to physical checks at Border Control Posts in the UK. The regime of border checks will become more rigorous.

Complete customs declarations for imports to the UK will be required. Importers may no longer defer making declarations.

The UK government has issued guidance specifically for food and drink businesses.

Register here for upcoming webinars on trading with the EU.

Register here for the forthcoming Defra webinar on Importing Products of Animal Origin (POAO) from the European Union into Great Britain.

IGD has also provided additional support to help businesses with EU Exit. Businesses may also wish to refer to the EU EXIT Foodhub, an FAQ website for food and drink businesses

Food and drink export opportunities

This week Defra has published a series of Promar research reports on the export opportunities for UK food and drink businesses in USA, India and UAE.

Rapid COVID-19 testing for workers

While COVID-19 case rates are relatively high there is a temporary suspension of the requirement to obtain a confirmatory PCR test following a positive Lateral Flow test for workplace employees. This applies to all those undertaking supervised testing. Exemptions apply to those that self-administer tests, and those employees will still require confirmatory PCR tests.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is inviting businesses in the food sector with 50 or more employees in England to register for the provision of government-funded lateral flow technology (LFT/LFD) to test asymptomatic workers.

This follows the recent introduction of asymptomatic testing across all local authorities in England targeted at people who cannot work from home.

Those interested in taking part can contact DHSC here using “Register interest for National Worker Programme” in the subject line and including the following information in the email body:

  • Institution name
  • Email for main point of contact
  • Industry Sector (e.g. food manufacturing)
  • Company registration number
  • Size of company/number of employees (e.g. 50-250, >250)

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are encouraged to contact their local authority to explore the possibility of using community testing facilities.

More information is expected shortly on the timetable for the further roll out of community based and home-based testing for employees who cannot work from home. 

Currently, there is no similar government funded testing for workers in the devolved administrations.

Mass testing in Scotland

The First Minister of Scotland has announced the introduction of workforce testing within the food processing and distribution sectors. This is expected to be introduced in the next month and be similar to the workforce testing in England.

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