Farming and meat industry leaders have hit out after the UK Government confirmed further delays to the implementation of post-Brexit animal and plant health border checks.
The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) says failure to fully implement sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls could have potentially devastating consequences for Scotland’s beleaguered pig sector, while farming union NFU Scotland (NFUS) has described the decision as “utter madness”.
SAMW executive manager, Martin Morgan, said “Unchecked imports are adding to the very real threat of African Swine Fever (ASF) being introduced into the UK from infected stock sourced from Europe, or via travellers bringing contaminated pork products into the country.
“The UK Government’s decision to once again delay the full implementation of import controls, possibly until next year, is a gross neglect of the health of the Scottish pig industry.”
NFUS president Martin Kennedy said the government’s prolonged failure to place UK food exporters on an even keel with those exporting goods to the UK showed an “astonishing level of incompetence and failure to support Scottish producers”.
He said: “It is utter madness; we are working with hands tied behind our backs while our Government make it easy for our competitors.
“These checks are absolutely crucial to our biosecurity, animal health and food safety and without them we are leaving ourselves at risk.”
Mr Kennedy said estimates suggest companies looking to export Scottish beef, lamb or pork to Europe are facing a 6% increase in costs due to Brexit and new cross-border checks.
He said these costs were not felt by those looking to export similar products from Europe into the UK because the UK Government has not introduced similar controls.
Mr Kennedy added: “The UK Government’s failure to deliver proper sanitary and phytosanitary checks on goods coming in from the EU, and creating a level playing field, is frustrating and disappointing and we will be seeking urgent discussions with government ministers about this decision when we are in Westminster in early May.
“On that visit, we will also continue to pursue with the UK Government the unacceptable situation where, 16 months post-Brexit, Scotland’s high value, high health seed potatoes remain locked out of valuable European markets.”