A number of food trade groups have hit out at how the European Commission plans to strengthen targeted checks at its borders, saying proposals are not risk-based.

The International Meat Trade Association (IMTA) and European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) were among associations to say requirements were not in line with a risk-based approach.

The draft regulation sets procedures at border control posts for authorities to perform intensified official controls on products of animal origin; germinal products such as semen, embryos or egg cells; animal by-products; and composite items entering the EU and intended to be put on the market.

In case of suspected fraud or deception by an operator or serious or repeated infringements of the rules, controls on consignments with the same use or origin performed by authorities at border control posts should be intensified. An authority’s decision to do intensified controls is notified to the Commission and member states through the information management system for official controls (IMSOC).

The legislation outlines intensified controls​ can end when an uninterrupted sequence of at least 10 satisfactory results has been recorded in IMSOC by the authorities of border control posts. The total weight of these consignments has to count for at least 10 times that of the non-compliant consignment with a ceiling net weight of 300 tons.

Meat trade groups unhappy

In comments submitted on the draft regulation, Verband der Fleischwirtschaft e.V. (VDF), a German business association, said for red meat imports such a change to legislation was “neither constructive nor necessary”.

“Consignments of imports of red meat never exceed the weight of 22 tons. Therefore, in no case 10 consignments of red meat would exceed the weight of 300 tons. Furthermore, should a consignment of around 20 tons be found non-compliant, the total weight of the consecutive compliant consignments would have to reach 200 tons,” according to VDF.

“Since the weight of many consignments is considerably lower than 20 tons – in many cases, consignments have around three to seven tons – the required number of the compliant consignments would be as much as 20 or more.”

VDF added previously operators tried to fulfil 10 compliant deliveries with consignments of small quantities and suggested a total weight of 50 tons for red meat with 10 consecutive compliant deliveries.

The group also took issue with the plan for an uninterrupted sequence of at least 30 consignments with satisfactory results, calling it “too large and too rigid”.

“The requirement of an uninterrupted sequence of at least 15 or 20 consignments with satisfactory results should be sufficient. On top of that, it should be considered to add the outcome of an investigation of the competent authority in the supplying country. A positive result should be taken into account to terminate the imposed check even before the required number of satisfactory border checks is achieved.”

Feedback from the International Meat Trade Association, based in the United Kingdom, said the draft regulation does not seem to be risk-based.

“If there must be a weight requirement, five times would be a more appropriate number than 10. Weights of consignments do vary so if the consignment that triggered the checks was an especially large consignment, it could result in significantly more than 10 satisfactory checks being required in order to obtain 10 times the weight, which creates an unnecessary burden for business even with the ceiling of 300 tons.”

Damaging for small producers

The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) said the format of the proposals would increase administrative burden and lack a risk based approach. It also proposed keeping the 10 percent weight criterion currently used.

“The administrative burden will increase enormously at the level of consignments from small third country producers since they will bring down the weight of their consignments to two to three metric tons, by doing so they reduce the risk of being pushed from the market by the format of the intensified controls proposal.

“If however also big third country producers e.g. from South America might seek a risk reduction by splitting up their volumes in for instance three parts, this will lead to a big push in the administrative burden at total level.”

The EU Fish Processors and Traders Association (AIPCE-CEP) and European association for forwarding, transport, logistic and Customs services (CLECAT) said the current requirement has proven to be efficient during years of implementation and the 10 times rule was “exaggerated”.

“It is also important to note that risk is not associated to the volume of the consignments, so this is not a risk-based approach. Let us not forget that small amounts of non-compliant products make all the consignment non-compliant, so to have such a weight requirement is disproportionate. This is especially damaging for small/medium enterprises, both the importing and producing enterprises, that will bear the economic burden,” said the trade bodies.

The groups proposed a reduction of five times the weight to address concerns of the national authorities, while being more manageable for importers.

If three consignments entering the EU reveal the same infringement, the Commission shall request the authority of the third country, in which the site of origin of the non-compliant consignments is found, to investigate to identify the reasons for infringements; adopt an action plan to remedy the situation; and report back on measures including results of the action plan.

The British Agriculture Bureau (BAB), which represents U.K. farming unions in Brussels, urged the Commission to extend deadlines to allow stakeholders to provide more detailed feedback.

Unions represented are the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, National Farmers’ Union Cymru (Wales), National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, Ulster Farmers’ Union and National Pig Association.

“BAB would like to understand the justification for the use of a ’10 times’ multiplier. This appears to be an arbitrary value the Commission has chosen in a bid to exceed an unknown risk factor which has not been defined.”

Australia and India want changes

As plans are part of the Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625, they would apply beginning on the same Dec. 14, 2019 date.

Australian and Indian authorities also raised concerns about the proposals.

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture said having a minimum weight or volume in addition to the number of passed inspections would provide greater confidence of ongoing compliance.

“However, for high value low volume products such as some specialty cheeses, mandating a minimum volume could be overly restrictive if the consignment that failed was an abnormally large consignment. Perhaps a lesser factor, such as five times the weight of the failing consignment, would be more appropriate and allow for ‘normal’ trade and exceptions.”

The agency added having an upper limit (300 tons) would only assist where the commodity is traded in large volumes but less frequently, so reducing time to achieve the conditions for removal of increased intervention. This may result in excessively prolonged periods of intensified controls for some agricultural products.

Australian officials said the requirement of 30 satisfactory results seemed disproportionate given the overseas authority has investigated and provided assurances of future compliance.

The Indian Department of Commerce expressed reservations on the proposed regulation, saying it “may create unnecessary barriers to trade”.

The agency said the 10 times requirement was highly restrictive for small-scale and upcoming business operators, especially in developing countries.

“For instance, a small/new business unit exports a consignment of say 20 tons that is found non-compliant. This enterprise would be under increased border inspection till it exports at least 200 tons of the product which means a very prolonged period of intensified control. This would also be very expensive as the enterprise will have to pay for detention and demurrage charges.”

The department called for the requirement of 30 satisfactory results to be reduced by at least 50 percent as the authority of the exporting country had the onus of investigating and reporting corrective actions.

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