The first few days of the UK’s new trading relationship with the European Union as a nation outside the European single market has got off to a rocky start, with reports of significant holdups in fresh seafood exports reaching European markets in both France and Holland, even with an unusually low traffic rate that indicates a reluctance among exporters to ship good until the obstacles have been overcome.
With the clock ticking as soon as fish or crustaceans are out of the water, highly perishable fresh seafood is a prime example of goods that have to reach their destinations without delays, and there has so far been no shortage of reports of shipments held up as the seafood inside loses quality.
Samways, based on the south coast of England, is an established seafood exporter and its directors this week sent an open letter to British MPs outlining their frustrations.
“We now face a situation where time-sensitive seafood cargo is facing major complications, without the benefits that were promised to many during the referendum campaign. As an export business, we have prepared for months to be as ready as possible for the new trading requirements and regulations,” Samways stated, commenting that issues have been encountered with commodity codes provided by the British government authorities not being recognised by border control, IT issue preventing trucks from leaving inspections and general delays at the border into France.
In addition, a vet now is required to sign off documentation before seafood can leave Samways’ premises in Bridport.
“As we speak, we have a full load of fresh seafood sat in French sanitary inspection, where it is being claimed that an IT issue os preventing trucks from leaving. The load has the relevant customs and veterinary clearance; however, this delay means that seafood which should have been delivered on Tuesday may be pushed back to Thursday if no action is taken,” a Samways representative said.
“It is fair to say that European customers are already losing confidence in the efficiency of our links to them and we are receiving news that local seafood auctions may choose not to trade over the coming days. The reality is that seafood auctions, fishermen and businesses like ours may be forced to make a decision as to the viability of trading while these complications remain.”
Wall of bureaucracy
The NFFO reports that there is there is mounting concern over the export of fish to Europe, centred on obstacles in Calais and Boulogne. “The first consignments of the year from Cornwall hit a brick wall of bureaucracy, and similar problems are being faced in relation to prawns exported from North Shields and with direct landings into Holland. At the time of writing one consignment of fish had been delayed 48 hours with attendant loss of quality. There were fears that the customer would reject the whole consignment on arrival,” an NFFO spokesman said.
“Buyers are warning vessels that purchases at first sale markets will soon be impacted if clear export routes across the narrow straits, compliant with the new customs regime cannot be quickly established.”