New French border check rules set to cause export ‘chaos’

9 January 2023


Food exporters face the risk of “absolute chaos” at the French border from this week when new rules mean some documents must be completed in French.

From 13 January, shelf-stable composite food products like canned custard and confectionery will require French versions of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) documents or else risk being rejected.

The changes were announced just before Christmas and were initially meant to come into force on 1 January. The date was pushed back to give businesses more time to prepare.

The last-minute change alarmed exporters, some of whom fear they will struggle to comply with the changes in time. One logistics expert warned it could be “absolute chaos” if French officials take a strict approach.

“Not every exporter has the capacity to translate every single form into perfect French,” said a supply chain manager at a global food company. “If the French private attestation is incorrect in the eyes of border control, this can result in delays and disruptions.”

Some larger food companies already provide French forms. However, for those that don’t, the risk is clear. “Turn up after the 13th with only an English language attestation and you’ll potentially have problems. Get it right and things should be OK,” said Rob Hardy, CEO of EORI, a customs clearance business.

Just how much impact the French change has on delays and turnbacks will only become clear from next week, but it was already contributing to a “permanent sense of uncertainty and unease around trade”, according to Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation.

“We can’t say with any certainty that goods will get through; that the procedures followed today will still work tomorrow.”

Border policy changes were “commonplace when dealing with a third country border”, Brennan added, and “can be sudden, poorly communicated, and hard to understand. But we must accept them to sell our goods.”

Defra has made translated versions of the forms available online.

“We are more than two years past the implementation of the ‘frictionless trade deal’ that the UK government heralded, and yet friction and uncertainty remain the day-to-day reality of UK food exporters,” Brennan said.


Kindly supplied by The Grocer


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