Ag Committee chairman calls for support for food traders caught up in Brexit disruption

Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has called for freight companies and food importers to receive support to meet customs requirements and avoid delays.

Several traders have reported issues with crossings, with Manufacturing NI claimed some loads travelling via Dublin Port have been held or returned while supermarket shelves are beginning to look bare.

McAleer, who also chairs the Stormont Agriculture Committee, said he had asked the committee to convene on Thursday (December 7) to highlight the issue to the department’s permanent secretary.

“The failure to properly prepare for the disruption and changes caused by Brexit – changes which we knew were coming at the end of the transition period – are already impacting our freight and food import industry.

“The scale of this is huge. In Belfast port alone, 550,000 freight ferry movements take place each year with Britain of a total of 850,000 for the North.

Documentary and identity checks must take place on all freight as well as physical checks on agri-products.

“These checks are to protect the integrity of the EU Single Market and our access to that market, which is the biggest in the world.

“It is, therefore, important that our freight companies and food importers receive the appropriate level of support to help meet these requirements but unfortunately, for many this has not been the case and they have faced delays.

I spoke to one operator last night who moves 100 loads a day between here and Britain and he has found most trailers contain composite loads of different products and each item requires certification.

“This causes delays, which could also have knock-on consequences for the supply of food to our local shops if it is not addressed.

“I have asked the AERA committee to convene on Thursday to highlight these concerns with the DAERA permanent secretary, the chief vet and other senior officials.

“It is clear that the freight industry needs more support to help them deal with these new processes.”