The Government has agreed to deregulate import procedures for reputable traders - slashing the level of checks required under the EU Marketing Standards.
From 20 July 2010, under the Assured Trader Scheme, registered importers can self-certify their own consignments.
This means that – with the exception of occasional random checks – their products will be immediately released at the point of importation.
The Scheme applies to the imports of commodities subject to the Specific Marketing Standard (SMS) and not to General Marketing Standard commodities. The SMS products are: apples; citrus fruit; kiwifruit; lettuces, curled leaved and broad-leaved endives; peaches and nectarines; strawberries; pears; sweet peppers; table grapes and tomatoes.
FPC chief executive Nigel Jenney said: "A change of this magnitude could only be achieved by a trade association working on behalf of individual businesses. It is the culmination of a long-term strategy by FPC in conjunction with the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (HMI) which will save the UK fresh produce industry significant time and cumulative costs estimated at £3 million each year."
He added: "We believe that 80% of importers could be eligible to join the Assured Trader Scheme, resulting in the immediate clearance of goods under the Specific Marketing Standards. We urge importers to take up the Scheme and seize these benefits."
The Assured Trader Scheme is open to importers who can demonstrate that they have:
- a good level of compliance with the regulations;
- training in place for their staff;
- records of inspection carried out on their goods, showing appropriate corrective action;
- suitable facilities.
FPC has lobbied the Food Standards Agency to allow the implementation of the Assured Trader Scheme under EC Regulation 669/2009 (increased controls of ‘high risk’ products), recognising the high standards of reputable companies with independently verified records of pesticide residues monitoring.
FPC is now calling on Fera to fast-track the development of the Assured Trader Scheme for plant health import inspections, reducing levels of inspection and administrative costs for reputable companies which have a long-standing record of compliance. This would allow the Government to focus its resources on targeting other traders or other activities as identified by inspectors.