APHA is seeking views on proposed changes to the charging structure and fees for the following plant health services provided by the Animal and Plant Health Agency in England and Wales:
- Inspection of imported plants and plant material and sampling and testing of potatoes imported from Egypt and the Lebanon;
- Seed potato certification;
- Plant passporting;
- Export certification;
- Plant health licensing and
- Certification of fruit propagating material.
The proposals are about changing how it charges for these services. The scope and nature of these services is not changing.
The consultation also seeks information about the impact of the proposals on businesses, including small or micro-businesses.
"The reduction is due to greater precision in how the new methodology calculates the costs; designating some of the costs to be met by government as a public subsidy and efficiencies," says APHA.
Fees for documentary checks and identity checks are charged separately at a flat rate of £5.71 per check per consignment. Physical inspection fees are set based on the type of material inspected (plants, cuttings, bulbs, shrubs etc.) and the size of the consignment (tonnage, number of plants etc). There is an initial fee for each inspection plus an extra charge for consignments above a standard volume, with a maximum charge cap in some cases. This reflects the standard approach to charging set out in the Plant Health Directive. There is no separate charge for any laboratory testing undertaken as part of the physical inspection – the cost is apportioned into the physical inspection fees and spread across all importers. Additional fees apply where, at the request of the importer, physical inspections are undertaken outside normal business hours.
APHA wants to combine the separate charges for documentary checks and identity checks into one fee of £9.71. It wants to move from the volume-based approach to charging for physical inspections to a more cost-based approach, in effect flat fees for each commodity type irrespective of the size of the consignment. There is also a plan to introduce a separate fee of £157.08 to recover the costs of laboratory testing where samples are taken by APHA inspectors because of the suspected presence of a harmful pest or disease. The cost of samples taken on suspicion is currently apportioned into physical inspection fees and spread across all importers. Under the new proposals, only those importers whose consignments are sampled on suspicion would pay.
"This is intended as an additional signal to importers reinforcing their important role in helping to protect our biosecurity through sourcing material from overseas suppliers with high biosecurity standards."
An additional charge for inspections undertaken outside of ‘normal business hours’ will be removed and the costs of this activity apportioned across all physical inspection fees.
These proposed changes to the fees, together with new cost methodology, will reduce the overall cost of the import inspection service by £543,000 a year (from £3.763m based on the current methodology and 2014/15 costs, to £3.220m based on the new methodology using 2016/17 costs). Approximately £141,000 of this reduction can be attributed to the savings achieved from combining the documentary checks and identity checks into one charge. The remaining £402,000 results from other efficiency gains and savings attributable to the new cost methodology.
Around 80,000 to 100,000 consignments of plants and plant produce (e.g. plants, cut flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs, potatoes, seeds for sowing, bulbs, grain and growing medium) are imported annually into England and Wales from non-EU countries. Much of this material is imported in large quantities, such as the 2.5 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables imported each year into the UK from over 90 non-EU countries.