FRUIT and veg prices are predicted to rise again when new post-Brexit import controls are introduced later this year.

The UK Government is set to start bringing in new paperwork requirements for EU businesses sending animal and plant products to the UK from next week.

Food importers and Dutch flower growers have already warned the burden of the extra administration will impact the price, choice, availability and shelf-life of goods on sale in the UK.

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) updated its website this week and unexpectedly reclassified many fruit and veg consignments from the EU as “medium risk” up from “low risk” for the purposes of the Border Target Operating Model from October 31.

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The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) says this decision will add £200 million to the cost of imports. 

The Border Target Operating Model sets out a “new approach” to security and sanitary controls at the border, according to the Government.

CEO Nigel Jenney told ITV: “These increased costs will apply in October and be passed straight on to consumers.”

He added they were a threat to the viability of small businesses.

Border checks have been postponed five times since the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into force in January 2021, due to concerns they would push up prices and fuel inflation.

The move is set to hit a “whole range of fruit and veg” according to Jenney, including many of the UK’s favourites like strawberries, peaches, apples and grapes.

He added: “Businesses which will be hardest hit will be your local businesses, your local wholesaler, who offers that great quality service to your local café, your local restaurant, your local hotel, school and hospital.”

Nearly half of what we eat in the UK comes from abroad and nearly two-thirds of that comes from the EU, according to the Food Standards Agency.

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The new controls mean exporters in the EU will have to complete Phytosanitary Certificates - a sort of health certificate - which will be signed by a health official.

Those certificates must then be lodged by the importer on DEFRA’s “Import of Products Animals, Food and Feed System” (IPAFFS) to notify the enforcement authorities in the UK.

Once the paperwork is done, the HGVs may be selected for inspection at Border Control while en route to the UK.

Even if the produce is not diverted for inspection, a “Common User Charge” – an entry charge of between £20 and £43 will be levied per the Phytosanitary Certificate pre-notified in IPAFFS.

The FPC says 65% of the lorries which arrive in the UK carry mixed loads of goods and these are more likely to be inspected, meaning potential delays for smaller importers who find their goods impacted.

“The system is not fit for purpose,” Jenney said.

“I doubt there are enough officials in the EU to generate the volume of Phytosanitary Certificates which are going to be required.”

According to the Food and Drink Federation, the UK imported £3 billion of vegetables in 2022, 79.4% of which came from the EU.

In the same year, fruit imports stood at £4.5bn, 39.7% of this came from the EU.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to delivering the most advanced border in the world. The Border Target Operating Model is key to delivering this, protecting the UK’s biosecurity.

“We have introduced these import controls to support businesses and ensure the efficient trade of fruit and vegetables is maintained between the EU and Great Britain.

"We are taking a phased approach – including temporarily moving all medium risk goods from EU, such as fruit and vegetables, to low risk to ensure business do not face any unnecessary burdens. We will continue to work closely with businesses across the UK as the controls are implemented.”