Two guides published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) aim to help traders navigate new procedures for moving animals, plants, food and feed from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
DAERA and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA NI) have been appointed as the 'central competent authorities' for the regulation of imports that will be subject to SPS checks in Northern Ireland under EU legislation.
That means they will be responsible for verifying imports entering Northern Ireland comply with EU law.
The two documents - Guidance for Authorised Traders (during the three-month grace period) and the Compliance Protocol - set out the new processes that will come into effect for retail and agri-food goods.
The protocol also sets out the measures that will be taken where non-compliance is detected.
Products subject to the regulations include fruit and vegetables, hops, wine, beef and veal, eggs in shell, hatching eggs and chicks, olive oil, and poultry meat.
The guide recognises that the supply chains for the daily movement of animals, plants and goods from GB to NI are "sophisticated and complex", serving multiple suppliers and customers of every conceivable size and business model.
"In broad terms, it involves 16 sailings each day from GB to NI entering through 3 portal points of entry, carrying some 450 containers, 175 of which are accompanied and 275 unaccompanied. A large proportion of these contain mixed goods and multiple consignments," it explains.
Points of entry
Under the protocol, certain types of goods will have to enter the region through different entry points.
According to the guide, all livestock from Britain will have to enter Northern Ireland through Larne Port, while plants and plant products can enter through Belfast, Larne, Warrenpoint and Foyle ports but not through Belfast International Airport.
'High-risk' feed must enter through Belfast, Larne or Warrenpoint ports.
Already, there have been reports of some lorries being turned away for not having the right paperwork.
Following the publication of the documents, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer Dr. Robert Huey said: “EU laws will continue to be applied to all animals, plants and food produced and marketed in Northern Ireland.
"The documents aim to prevent or reduce harm to animal, plant and public health, and to help Northern Ireland’s people, retailers and traders understand the new processes that will be applied from January 1, 2021, after the end of the transition period.
"They also aim to highlight the flexibilities agreed between the UK government and the EU in order to make the processes as seamless as possible.”
'Many of the new processes will start immediately'
Dr. Huey urged anyone who moves animals of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to read the new guides as a matter of urgency.
“Individuals and businesses should thoroughly read the Compliance Protocol and the Guidance for Authorised Traders and understand what they need to do to keep trading," he said.
While some of the new processes will be phased in over time, many of them start immediately – therefore people should read these guides as soon as they can.
“It is clear how complex the food, animal and plant supply chains are and these documents explain how to navigate the changes.
"They set out how to move food, animals and plants and aim to bring all the various parts of the journey together to prepare traders for the new requirements. We will of course work with traders as much as possible.”