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Food Price Jitters Emerge: Brexit Import Charges Disclosures Cause Alarm

Food Price Jitters
Food Price Jitters

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The UK government has disclosed the fees that companies will incur for importing food from the EU post-Brexit. Beginning on April 30th, small imports of items such as fish, salami, sausage, cheese, and yogurt will be subject to charges of up to £145, as revealed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

These fees, termed the “common user charge,” will apply to animal products, plants, and plant products entering the UK from the EU through the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel at Folkestone. The charges will be imposed per type of imported good, or “commodity line,” capped at £145 for mixed consignments, with individual products facing charges of up to £29. This fee will be applicable to goods classified as low, medium, and high risk.

While the government states that these fees will fund world-class border facilities and biosecurity measures to prevent the import of plant and animal diseases, industry representatives have expressed concerns. The Cold Chain Federation warns that these charges will likely be passed on to consumers, leading to increased food prices and potentially limiting choices for shoppers. Moreover, the last-minute announcement of these charges has left businesses with little time to adjust their operations accordingly.

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) also criticizes the policy, expressing concerns that it will increase costs, reduce consumer choice, and possibly lead to empty shelves. James Barnes, the HTA chairman, highlights that the maximum charge of £145 will impact businesses in the horticultural sector, which typically deal with multiple commodity lines per consignment.

Labour has echoed these concerns, emphasizing worries about rising prices and potential chaos resulting from new border checks. Shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds emphasizes the need to negotiate agreements with the EU to reduce bureaucratic barriers and ensure competitive prices for consumers and businesses.

In response, the government defends the charges, stating that they were established after extensive consultation with the industry and are designed to recover the costs of operating border facilities. A cap has been set to assist smaller businesses, and the government remains committed to supporting businesses of all sizes during the transition period.

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