Plant Health charge increases unjustified - FPC

The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) proposals to increase charges for plant health import inspections are unjustified according to Fresh Produce Consortium chief executive Nigel Jenney.

The government’s plant health inspectorate claims increases are necessary to reflect exchange rate changes.

Jenney said:  "This is a classic case of over-the-top EU red tape which fails to address the real risks of plant health and the practicalities of importing fresh produce and cut flowers in these challenging times.

"The UK Government must seize this opportunity to work with the industry to target unnecessary bureaucracy and minimise cost. The Government should force the EU to see sense to adopt the Assured Trader Scheme immediately, and allow the industry to self-regulate, reducing both government and industry costs by millions of pounds."

Jenney called for a review of service levels provided by Fera and claimed reduced inspections levels would reflect "the negligible risk from fresh produce."

He added:  "Instead Fera is proposing to increase the total annual cost of plant health import charges to nearly £2.5 million, with no additional benefits to the industry.

"Less than one per cent of imported consignments in the UK have any issue. We question the need for increased inspection of fresh produce.

"FPC is pressing for Fera to fast track the development of the Assured Trader Scheme, which would reduce levels of inspection and administrative costs for reputable companies, recognising their consistent record of compliance and high standards."

FPC has refuted the exchange rate claim, arguing a 10 per cent factor for variability is already built in to the system.

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