The UK Government is bringing in new requirements for imports of live animals (e.g. fish), plants and animal/plant products (eg fish food/live food/frozen food) on 31 January. That means all businesses, whether you’re an importer/consolidator or a retailer which sources directly from European-based businesses, need to get ready with the right paperwork.

What you need to know:

  • All imports need to be pre-notified on the IPAFFS system. From 31 January, these will now be categorised into low, medium and high risk, with each categorisation having different paperwork requirements. Anything categorised as medium or high risk will need an accompanying health certificate from 31 January.
  • From 30 April, physical checks on consignments will be introduced for medium and high risk plant and animal products (not live fish and other animals). That means consignments must come through the right Border Control Post (BCP) able to accept that type of consignment. Not all seaports will have BCPs and not all BCPs are able to process all types of consignments so it’s very important to make sure you understand which seaport will accept your goods – it might mean you need to change ferry routes.
  • Live animals (which all fall into the high risk category) will start to have physical checks at Border Control Posts towards the end of 2024. Again, if you bring live animals in by ferry this will affect which routes you can use.
    • At the moment we are only aware of Sevington Inland Border Facility (serving Dover) that is planned to accept consignments of live fish when physical checks are reintroduced (existing airport BCPs will remain available) but Defra hopes other seaports will develop capability in the future. So keep checking here for any changes to that status.
  • The Government is also extending the use of PDF health certificates for live animals. Don’t forget to follow the correct process for uploading the PDF Export Health Certificate (EHC) when you create your notification on IPAFFS

Businesses might find these YouTube explainers useful to help get ready for the changes coming up.

What OATA is doing

OATA is very concerned about the lack of Border Control Posts at seaports and the capacity of those that will be operational by the time checks begin. If businesses currently fly plants, animals and products into the UK then they will probably experience little change (other than in paperwork requirements which will increase for everyone) because BCPs that handle live fish are already in place (at Heathrow where 80% of live fish come into the UK, Manchester, Gatwick and Edinburgh). However, the same cannot be said for seaports.

We have continually raised these concerns with Defra – along with other trade associations representing relevant industries – during regular meetings. As a result, the Government has recently announced more funding to build Border Control Posts at seaports but these will take a long time to build and it remains to be seen if the funding made available is sufficient to meet the demands of trade. That does mean that businesses potentially will need to change routes – or even consider bringing in by plane – which will add time and expense to imported livestock and goods, which ultimately will affect all businesses. It also means there are likely to be delays, with trade flows from multiple sectors being diverted through one BCP. If not managed properly this could cause severe disruption for businesses, reduce availability of goods, and impact animal welfare.

With deadlines for checks rapidly approaching, any changes to the planned rule changes are also likely to be made very last minute, meaning businesses are not being given the notice they need to change long-established routes.

There is also a lack of clarity from Government over what level of checks will be applied to live aquatic animals at the border. The Government has indicated that “certain live aquatics” will be subject to a reduced level of checks but they have not been able to indicate what products would qualify for a reduced level of checks. Other live animal sectors are expected to have 100% checks which would cause severe disruption to businesses and negatively impact animal health and welfare.