Lack of European vets could hit meat deliveries

Lack of European vets could hit meat deliveries

Meat suppliers in the EU may have to hold back deliveries earmarked for the UK because of a  lack of vets in Europe, experts have warned.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has concerns that imports may be held back due to a shortage of vet availability in the European Union to carry out checks needed under the new rules.

Peter Hardwick, trade policy adviser at the BMPA, said he believed suppliers would “take the UK government’s rules at face value”, and he expected some big suppliers not to risk their stock or reputation by sending orders without a health certificate.

On January 7 the government launched the first stage of its new border policy to overhaul the way plant and animal products can be imported from the European Union.

This stage of the “border target operating model” will require all meat and dairy exports to be checked by a vet within the European country before they can be sent to the UK. It requires vets to fill in a seven-page document certifying that the animal has been free of disease and has certain vaccinations. Currently, no health checks are required on imports.

However there is now growing concern in the UK, and from meat exporters in several EU countries, that the veterinary workforce will not be able to cope.

Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export and International Trade, told the Observer: “We’ve heard very clearly, both Germany and Poland have a seriously constrained capability with regards to vets.

“There are worries that they will not be able to issue the export health certificates required in order for those medium-risk goods from Germany and Poland to be traded.”

Europe, like the UK, has had a shortage of vets in recent years, particularly in rural areas.

A survey by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe in 2020 found that across all 28 EU countries, nearly four in five were experiencing shortages.

According to the BMPA, about 1.5 million tonnes of meat and poultry are imported into the UK from the EU every year, equivalent to 50,000 lorry loads.

Peter Hardwick said: “We have heard of difficulties from Ireland actually saying that there appears to be difficulties with getting export health certificates signed, particularly after hours on Friday and Saturday.”

Some European vets are also warning that they are unable to complete the forms due to a lack of information from the UK government.