The National Sheep Association (NSA) said it is concerned that a significant amount of the UK’s meat production will become non-compliant for export to the EU if proposed changes are implemented meaning a veterinary attestation of health status must accompany animals destined for slaughter.
The change proposed by Defra, from a farmer declaration to a veterinary attestation, is proposed to be introduced next month in order to be fully compliant with the EU Animal Health Regulations. However, farmers, the supply chain, and veterinary surgeons are not in a place to be able to deliver this with such short notice.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “It seems that once again the farming and food industries are having to fight hard to avoid yet another ‘Brexit barrier’ to trade from Great Britain to the EU and Northern Ireland.
“What is disappointing about this is that the Defra departments dealing with it have fallen straight back into enforcement mode rather than enabling mode. There has been little effort to understand or accept the challenges that vet signed attestations bring, and no appreciation that the industry would need time for this new requirement to be implemented.
“There is a very high percentage of sheep farmers who are not part of voluntary assurance schemes and there is not enough time, or vets, to do any necessary additional inspections.”
Mr Stocker said that with 72% of all meat exports and 96% of all sheep meat exports going to the EU, NSA is concerned this has the potential to have a devastating effect on farmers, auction markets and meat processors.
“The changes are likely to have an immediate impact on livestock prices here in the UK as well as causing significant and costly disruption for the supply chain,” he said.