Seven new forms that seafood firms must fill in to export fish to EU

The SEVEN baffling new forms that seafood firms MUST fill in to send just ONE species of fish to EU… and the 33-point official advice on how to export it

  • UK seafood firms have to complete seven documents just for one lorry carrying one species to export to EU
  • Papers include export health certificate, catch certificate, customs export declaration and storage document 
  • Government produces huge flowchart on how British suppliers can now export wild-caught marine fish to EU
  • Introduction of new checks and paperwork since end of Brexit transition period has hugely disrupted exports

Scottish seafood companies must now complete up to seven documents just for a single lorry carrying one species to export to the European Union following Brexit, bosses warned today.

The papers that must be filled in are an export health certificate, catch certificate, customs export declaration, endangered species permit, common health entry document, storage document and processing statement.

In an attempt to explain the red tape, the Government’s Marine Management Organisation produced a lengthy 33-point flowchart on how British suppliers can export wild-caught marine fish to the EU from January 1.

The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 last year has caused huge disruption to UK exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, told MailOnline today that one supplier with one product such as salmon and one 20-tonne lorry now needs seven different documents to export to the EU.

The Government produced a 33-point flowchart on how British suppliers can export fish to the European Union from January 1

This catch certificate is an example of one of the seven documents that must now be filled in by companies exporting fish

This means exporters with multiple species from different companies now needs dozens of documents. Mr Buchan told MailOnline: ‘Therein lies where errors start to happen on a system no one had any experience on. 

‘It was chaos. But we’re week three and we are moving fish. We’ve known for two years that outside the customs union, there’d be new documents. What the problem was, was that our negotiators negotiated a bad deal.’

What are the seven documents now needed to export fish to the EU?

  • Export health certificate
  • Catch certificate
  • Customs export declaration
  • Endangered species permit
  • Common health entry document
  • Storage document
  • Processing statement

Peterhead-based Mr Buchan added: ‘The EU has been given six months grace to continue importing in the UK, with no paperwork, no barriers, so there’s a huge imbalance. We’re having to do documents outward, but they’re not having to do them inward.’

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, he said: ‘We have had glitches right through the system, everyone included. My own sector the paperwork was probably not adequately filled out. 

‘Overburden-some bureaucratic rules was the next problem, glitches at border controls was the next problem, and even the French had border control glitches. You put all that into the mix and you’ve got a motorway crash and we are working through that endlessly to find solutions for the industry and we will get seafood to the market.’

Mr Buchan recently met with fisheries minister Victoria Prentis to try and speed up the process and said ‘every day was getting better’.

He told the Mail: ‘It’s a tedious amount of paperwork. What was expected to take one hour now takes five or six hours. Every fish needs to be weighed and documented. Last year we didn’t need these checks.

‘Now, for instance, if you have a lorry for one producer just containing salmon, you need seven documents.

‘When you start working in groupages, where you might have ten producers and different products sharing the same lorry, you have gone from seven documents to maybe hundreds of documents. Before all this manifested you just had to say what was on the pallet with one document.’ 

Fishing boats moored at Eyemouth Harbour in the Scottish Borders yesterday as exports are severely disrupted by delays

An almost empty Peterhead fish market in Scotland is seen yesterday as problems continue after the transition period ended

A fishing boat moored at Dunbar Harbour in East Lothian yesterday as exports of fresh fish and seafood are severely disrupted

Speaking about the paperwork, oyster farmer Tom Haward, of Richard Haward’s Oysters in West Mersea, Essex, told Byline TV: ‘It’s very time consuming. 

Fisherman, 64, who spent £1million on new boat can no longer sell his catch

A Scottish fisherman who spent £1million on a new boat can no longer sell his catch because it has been stuck in transit due to Brexit delays.

Alistair Roberts, 64, spent two years having the trawler built to add to his River Clyde fleet, which catches langoustines and prawns to sell in Europe.

But three weeks after the vessel went to sea, export hold-ups caused by Brexit regulations meant he could not get his produce out of the UK.

Stuck in transit: Alistair Roberts spent £1million on a new boat but can’t get his catch out of the UK due to delays

The exports of fish and shellfish have been stuck in transit for weeks and had gone rotten by the time they arrived on the continent.

Now Mr Roberts, who owns Brora Fishing Company which operates from Greenock, Renfrewshire, has backed industry calls for a six-month grace period to allow firms to get used to the new requirements.

He said: ‘We can’t get stock out of the country. Our boat was the first built on the Clyde for 18 years and is insured for £1million, about as much as it cost to build.

Mr Roberts owns Brora Fishing Company which operates from Greenock, Renfrewshire

‘Normally our stock would come off the boat fresh and be in France within 24 hours. But this week alone our prices have gone down 20 per cent because our processor is now having to freeze the stock because they can’t export it.’

The delays have been caused by fishermen needing catch certificates and export health certificates. The new paperwork is taking longer than expected to be processed.

Mr Roberts added: ‘The procedure at the hubs should take 45 minutes but it is taking up to five hours to clear one lorry. I have a crew of nine men who are all self-employed. Fishermen get paid wages depending on their share of the catch and if we are not fishing, then no one gets any money.’ 

‘For the Export Health Certificate, which is basically saying that your product is fit for human consumption, you need one person from local authority, and environmental health officer to sign that, but that alone takes a lot of time and a lot of emails and phone calls.

‘We can’t do that in the new system because there’s no way at 10am that I’d then be able to get hold of my environmental health officer to sign a certificate by the end of the day that day, I wouldn’t be able to do it.’

Last night, UK ministers confirmed Scottish seafood exporters will be able to claim up to £100,000 in compensation over Brexit delays – with the industry losing around £1million a day during the crisis. 

Officials yesterday said a funding package of up to £23million would be made available for businesses hit by severe delays amid the post-Brexit chaos. Firms have been forced to beg for urgent financial support from the Government amid fears of bankruptcy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson originally disclosed the Government’s intentions after seafood hauliers descended on Westminster on Monday to protest at the terms of the Brexit trade deal which has left them struggling to access EU markets.

And the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs yesterday announced a package of aid for the fishing sector – accepting that it had the ‘most significant new requirements’ to adjust to after Brexit.

The scheme will be for small and medium enterprise, with operators able to claim a maximum of £100,000. The exports firms must be able to provide evidence of a genuine loss in exporting of fish and shellfish to the EU.

Responding to the Government money, Mr Buchan told BBC Radio 4: ‘We do welcome the offer. It’s a great step. It shows that the Government of the day, and we did engage with them, understood that there were problems, and have come up with a package that is going to try and help us through this very difficult time.’

Fishing companies will have to prove they have made quantifiable losses, and Mr Buchan was asked if it would be tricky for them to prove what they’ve lost.

But he replied: ‘No, I don’t think it will. If you have bought fish at the market, premium, prime fish, and you’ve paid a premium price, and the return on that goods five days later is less than what you actually bought it for, then I’m pretty sure there’s evidence to me that you made a loss.

‘Other companies are going to have to prove that they’ve put that fish to landfill, but I’m confident that the people who have made the genuine losses here will be able to demonstrate through the paperwork trail where the losses were made.’

Mr Buchan added that there was a need for an ‘immediate cash injection’ for the industry, saying: ‘If we look at the whole context here, if you look at the backdrop of a pandemic 2020, then there was the restrictions through the exports to France pre-Christmas, and now we’ve got these blockages in the first few weeks of January, I would think some of our businesses are in very, very dire straits of needing cash injection.

‘I think that given time we can improve and speed up our efficiencies in getting seafood to market. Remember, this was the first day at school for everyone, from the catching, to the processing, to the logistics, to the certifying officers, to the border control force and the French border control force. January 4, first day at school for everyone – it was disarray.’

Mr Buchan was also asked how he felt Brexit had gone, especially as he had backed calls for it four years ago.

He replied: ‘We’re still working through that. Surely you’re not going to context this on two weeks – let’s speak about this in two years and then we’ll have an answer. But we can’t make a snapshot decision in two weeks.’ 

The money revealed by Environment Secretary George Eustice will be paid immediately and retrospectively covering losses from January 1, 2021. Details of how to apply and eligibility will be revealed in the coming days.

Mr Eustice said: ‘This £23million scheme will provide crucial support for fishermen and seafood exporters who have experienced delays and a lack of demand from the restaurant industry in the UK and Europe. 

Police inspect the truck of a driver protesting against post-Brexit red tape in the fishing industry in Westminster on Monday

Police speak to Scottish shellfish export truck drivers as they are stopped during their demonstration in London on Monday

Police officers talk to a driver working in the shellfish industry who brought his truck to London for the protest on Monday

‘We are continuing to work closely with the fishing and aquaculture sectors to make sure that they are supported, and can continue to fish whilst contributing to the economies of our coastal communities.’

Essex oyster farmer explains how export health certificates work

Oyster farmer Tom Haward

An oyster farmer has revealed the difficulties of getting a single signature for an export health certificate, which is among the documents now needed to export fish to the EU.

Tom Haward, of Richard Haward’s Oysters in West Mersea, Essex, told Byline TV yesterday: ‘It’s very time consuming.

‘For the Export Health Certificate, which is basically saying that your product is fit for human consumption, you need one person from local authority, and environmental health officer to sign that, but that alone takes a lot of time and a lot of emails and phone calls.

‘We can’t do that in the new system because there’s no way at 10am that I’d then be able to get hold of my environmental health officer to sign a certificate by the end of the day that day, I wouldn’t be able to do it.’

Richard Haward’s Oysters is based in West Mersea, Essex

New customs procedures have led to delays in getting seafood from Scotland to Europe, with firms forced to tie up their boats and tell workers to stay on land.

Seafood firms have warned they are days away from collapsing without an urgent injection of emergency cash – as fishermen have been forced to make 72-hour round-trip journeys to Denmark to sell their catch.

The scheme will be administered by the Marine Management Organisation, with UK ministers set to consult with the industry and devolved nations.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid said: ‘This funding announcement is the latest step in the UK Government’s continued engagement with the senior representatives of the industry to identify specific problems and to apply rapid solutions. Those conversations are, of course, aimed at addressing immediate concerns, and at finding longer-term, sustainable solutions to the challenges that the industry faces.’ 

As well as financial support, the Government has pledged to work with businesses to help them adapt to the new export processes – with training and workshop session available.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the UK Government must ensure that its compensation package is open to all whose business has been interrupted or harmed by any aspect of the new export rules.

He said: ‘As feared and predicted, the new trading relationship with the EU is having a catastrophic impact on Scotland’s food and drink export industry. It is very clear that the UK Government should have extended the transition period as we called for, due to the pandemic and lack of progress in the negotiations.

‘We have repeatedly pressed the UK Government to act quickly and compensate businesses affected by the ongoing trade issues. I am pleased to see they have finally recognised our calls for compensation but I remain concerned this may be too little, too late for some businesses that have been left to rot as a result of the extensive bureaucracy forced on them by a poor Brexit deal and failing UK IT systems.

‘Whilst we desperately need more detail, it does appear almost certain that the vast majority of fishing vessels who land but don’t export directly will not be covered by this scheme, which is beyond any rational explanation. The UK Government must step up for all affected businesses.’

Seafood Scotland chief executive Donna Fordyce welcomed the announcement of ‘short-term assistance’ but said the Government needed to do more to support the sector. 

‘While we await the full detail of the package, we know that there will be questions around the extent to which it supports the entire supply chain, from fleet to export,’ she said. ‘Money will offer a much-needed sticking plaster covering the losses over the last few weeks, but to completely staunch the wound, the sector still needs a period of grace during which the systems must be overhauled so they are fit for purpose. ‘ 

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