Organic sector avoids costly Brexit bureaucracy

The organic farming sector has avoided costly Brexit red tape after Brussels agreed to recognise UK standards until 2023.

Ahead of the Brexit deal, Europe had agreed only to approve British standards for an interim 12-month period.

See also: Exit payments: What should farmers do to prepare for 2022?

After that date the UK faced losing the European market, which is worth £200m/year to British farmers.

Draft rules agreed in December also insisted that UK produce would have to be marked with separate identification codes.

Certification body Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G) explained that this would have been a complex, time-consuming task.

The rule would have involved the production and application of two sets of stickers for every organic product.

It also risked creating confusion among shoppers and undermining trust, said OF&G chief executive Roger Kerr.

However, emerging detail from the Brexit deal, agreed just before Christmas, means the extra identification marks will no longer be required.

The longer recognition of UK produce standards, until 31 December 2023, is a huge boost, Mr Kerr said.

Longer market certainty

“The longer time period gives us time to negotiate and manage changes creating a greater degree of market certainty,” he said.

Mr Kerr suggested a further agreement between the UK and Brussels over inspections was under negotiation.

The UK has allowed shipments of imported organic produce to pass through customs without additional inspections and paperwork.

New documents verifying the imported produce will not be required until July, said Mr Kerr.

“We are seeking an equivalent step from Brussels which, as it stands, is insisting new paperwork is completed and accompanies each batch of UK exports.”

Mr Kerr was hopeful of an agreement in the coming days.

The NFU also welcomed the EU’s move to recognise UK certification until 2023.

NFU organic forum chair Andrew Burgess said: “We welcome the news that the trade deal included a technical annex on organic equivalence, meaning the EU and UK have agreed equivalency in organics until 31 December 2023.

“This will provide longer-term certainty for those organic businesses who have been concerned about losing this valuable export market.”