Clarifying the classification of fruit and vegetables given risk to supply chain

Published: 31-Jan-2024

Logistics UK state that the government must bring clarity to the classification system to keep the industry stable

Logistics UK is calling on the government to address the confusion caused by its indication that fresh fruit and vegetables are to be reclassified as “medium risk” goods for border inspections. They also want them to publish the impact assessment for the UK’s supply chain.  

Nichola Mallon, Logistics UK’s Head of Trade, is seeking urgent clarification from the government about what will be required from business to ensure that trade can continue to flow smoothly.

She states prior to the introduction of the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), which will see checks put in place at the UK’s border with the EU:

“Logistics businesses have been pressing government for clarity on how border checks will be done on freight from the EU since the Brexit vote,” she says. “With only days until the first stage of the BTOM is to be introduced, why is the government providing conflicting and confusing information that will slow down the preparedness of the UK’s businesses to trade effectively with their EU suppliers?” 

On 24 January 2024, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) stated it was changing its classification of how fruit and vegetable imports will be handled after 31 October 2024, meaning they will be subject to physical checks before being passed to cross the UK border. 

Since then, the government has changed their stance, declaring that some fruit and vegetables from the EU are “temporarily being treated as low risk” and that “further information related to the categorisation of fruit and vegetables from the EU will be available shortly”. 

No rationale has been provided for this reclassification of fresh produce, or any further detail given.  

“In selling the BTOM to industry, the government stated that 90% of all sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) commodities – those of plant or animal origin - are low risk, meaning they wouldn’t require an Export Health Certificate, be subject to physical checks or hit with a higher import charge.

This change in classification will add significant time and costs to this critical “just in time” supply chain. Logistics businesses are already struggling with rising inflation, as they operate on particularly narrow margins.

These increased costs can only add to inflation and at a time when food inflation remains high.

“Our members have kept the UK stocked with goods throughout the pandemic, and have worked tirelessly to prepare for a post-Brexit world. They should not be given conflicting information and kept in the dark until the eleventh hour. Our members deserve better from the government. We are seeking urgent clarification on this issue and for decisions on all outstanding issues to be made public, including the import charge they will apply at border control posts.” 


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