UK processor Whitby Seafoods is calling for the UK government to create some form of “Trusted Trader Scheme” to help move products between Northern Ireland and England, which is facing disruption because of Brexit.
All of the company’s langoustine tails caught in UK waters are taken to its Kilkeel facility in Northern Ireland for peeling before the meat is then sent to Whitby for further processing into scampi, packaging and freezing.
“We are in and out of Northern Ireland every day,” said Laura Whittle, sales and marketing director at the company. “But because of Brexit, Northern Ireland has been annexed, resulting in extremely long and complicated admin procedures to get shellfish in and out.”
While generally accepting that this “huge administrative burden” is unlikely to go away any time soon, Whitby Seafoods, along with others shellfish suppliers in the same position, are campaigning for a trusted traders scheme.
“If a product is going from the same factory in Northern Ireland to the same coldstore in England, the risk is so small, and on top of that it’s not even being sold in the EU,” said Whittle.
A trusted traders scheme would exempt reliable, consistent, robust supply chains that are being used on a daily basis from extra administration and its resulting costs.
Since Brexit, extra paperwork such as veterinarian approvals and customs forms has resulted in delays for products being shipped.
Rules require businesses to notify customs 12 hours in advance of moving goods across the Irish Sea, which is problematic for fresh seafood companies such as Whitby.
“Our scampi tails are still in the sea, being caught that day, so 12 hours in advance we don’t know what we’re sending over,” said Whittle.
The main concern is the product could end up being out of the water a long time before it’s processed and frozen, and could deteriorate in quality.
“If we get into the summer months and products are left standing, it will really be risking product quality, which is our biggest concern,” said Whittle.
“The admin is a pain in the neck and costs a lot, but the risk on quality in the warmer months is just not tenable,” she said.
“It is ok in terms of supply, we’ve got plenty of stock so it is not effecting customers. It's just that in the warmer months it might cause quality to deteriorate – that’s what we can’t have.”