IGD – Economics bulletin 19 January

Date : 19 January 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.

Ports and transport

Although goods continue to flow across all the borders, volumes remain significantly lower than usual, and many businesses are reporting difficulties in adapting to the new requirements following the end of the transition period with the EU. In particular, some businesses are experiencing significant challenges in moving goods from Great Britain to the island of Ireland. 

The government will continue to monitor flow at the borders.

Customs agents

Concerns have been raised about possible disruption in the weeks ahead due to various capacity constraints, including a shortage of customs agents.

There is a requirement to have a designated customs/import agent in order to send a consignment to the EU. This agent must be based in the EU and should notify the Border Control Post (BCP) of the arrival of any consignment sent to the EU. The agent will need to be available to be contacted to answer questions, and in some circumstances to be available to attend the BCP in person.

See the latest webinar by the BPDG on exporting via the Short Straits.

Trading and supply chain

With delays in moving goods to Northern Ireland, there continue to be reports of challenges to the supply chain, particularly for fresh food.

There continues to be elevated demand in the rest of the UK, though at lower levels compared to the lockdown in March last year. Overall, the supply chain for the rest of the UK remains resilient, despite some reports of some delays in importing products and ingredients due to driver availability/willingness to travel to the UK.

Groupage

One of the issues that is creating challenges in moving goods, both to Northern Ireland and the rest of the EU, is groupage – where a mixed load is moved between markets and all items must have correct paperwork. The complexity and volume of paperwork required for consolidated loads can be very significant.

Defra has set up a pilot to test groupage based on a linear sequencing of sealed consignments to avoid checking of multiple consignments at ports. This follows input from industry and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland. Defra will gather evidence from the pilot and is expected to issue further guidance shortly.

Another proposed model involves a hub and spoke approach whereby mixed loads are consolidated and checked at a final point before movement to the EU or Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland

As part of the agreement reached between the UK and EU, there is a grace period of six months to enable the movement of prohibited and restricted (P&R) meat products between GB and Northern Ireland.

From 1 Jan a P&R attestation form signed by an official in the business is required for these products. It was expected that from 25 January a P&R Certificate would be required, signed by an Official Veterinarian (OV) or competent authority. However, it is expected that there will be a delay in requiring a vet signed certificate and Defra continues to discuss the phasing in of requirements with the European Commission. Further guidance is expected shortly.

See the Moving Goods from GB to NI Trader Showcase site

EU Exit support for businesses

Register here for IGD’s next EU Exit webinar on 20 January which will bring you up to date on all the key issues:

  • The new trade deal – what’s in it?
  • Northern Ireland Protocol – latest changes
  • Business experiences
  • Covid-19 and the consumer

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

Absence

Rising absence rates continue to be a concern due to the new variant of COVID-19.

Concerns have been raised around the rules on children of critical workers and access to schools, with the guidance not being applied consistently at a local level. This is leading to additional staff absence in the food industry. Defra has reiterated the importance of those working in the food and drink supply chain with Environment Secretary George Eustice sharing further guidance on their critical worker status.

Mass testing

The government continues to progress the expansion of mass testing to help to stop the spread of COVID-19. This follows the recent introduction of asymptomatic testing across all local authorities in England targeted at people who cannot work from home.

The approach to testing will be threefold:

  • Community-based testing – most suitable for small to medium-sized businesses
  • Home-based testing – most suitable for small to medium-sized businesses
  • Workplace testing – most suitable for larger businesses

More information is expected shortly on the timetable for the roll out of mass testing in the workplace where the food industry has been given priority, and on the timetable for home-based testing.

Travel restrictions

The government has announced that all travel corridors have been suspended – meaning that travel from anywhere outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man will require proof of a negative Coronavirus test, a completed Passenger Locator Form and then to self-isolate immediately for 10 days on arrival.

From 00.01 Tuesday 19 January, all hauliers travelling from the UK to the Netherlands by ferry will be required to show evidence of a negative lateral flow test obtained within 24 hours of boarding a service departing for a Dutch port.

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