British Meat Processors Association
British Meat Processors Association

Hidden import charges unfair on UK businesses and shoppers

The full impact of the UK’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), which came into force on 30 April 2024, is now hitting home, and it’s far from trivial. Defra claimed that the new import requirements would cost a mere “£330 million per annum overall, across all EU imports” and through all ports of entry, including extra administrative costs. In a letter to Stella Creasy, Baroness Neville-Rolfe estimated that “around half “of the £330 million would be on health certification, leaving just £165 million for port charges.

But, despite this claim, the real financial burden on importers—and ultimately consumers—is significantly higher.

Undisclosed costs and misleading estimates

DEFRA had downplayed the costs, estimating a ‘minimal’ effect on food price inflation, and projecting an increase of less than 0.2% over three years. However, importers are facing substantial charges far beyond these estimates. The Government’s focus has been on the Common User Charge (CUC) for medium-risk products like fresh meat, capped at £145 per truckload.

But real-world costs paint a starkly different picture. The ‘cap’ is per consignment utilising one Common Health Entry Document (CHED), not per truckload. It’s conceivable that a groupage load of say five consignments with five CHEDs, each with five product lines could be charge £725 for a single truckload.

Double whammy for importers

A crucial and underpublicised additional cost on top of the CUC comes from the Port Health Authority. Ashford Port Health Authority’s SPS documentary and inspection charge for Dover and Eurotunnel consignments starts at £66 for loads up to 6 tonnes, plus £11 for each additional tonne.

These fees are separate from the Common User Charge and are levied for facilities and checks at Sevington, which most consignments never even reach. The simple fact is that this charge is being levied to do nothing other than an online, automated check of the CHED.

Peter Hardwick, Trade Policy Advisor at the British Meat Processors Association explains: “The Government now admits that what was not clearly explained in its guidance is that this fee is applied to every medium and high-risk consignment of animal products, regardless of whether it undergoes physical checks. Only 2% of consignments are being physically checked, so the vast majority are being waved through without a second glance, but the charge is levied anyway.”

Higher costs for businesses and consumers

Peter Hardwick says: “Let’s just look at imported products of animal origin alone. With at least 1,000 full truckloads of medium and high-risk products moving through Dover and Eurotunnel every day, the daily cost exceeds £240,000, translating to an annual burden of £88 million, which is in no way aligned with the actual level of checks. And traffic through Dover and Eurotunnel only represents a third of all animal products coming into the country.”

Mr Hardwick goes on to caution: “Remember, these are just the new port charges we’re describing. Not included here are the multiple other hidden costs being baked into imported food prices including the huge cost of all the new red tape and paperwork that’s now required to be done by vets and administrators before a lorry even leaves the factory.

“The British Meat Processors Association is calling on the Government to urgently review these charges which, contrary to Defra’s claims of ‘minimal’ impact, are poised to significantly increase consumer prices.”

About BMPA

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) is the leading trade association for the meat and meat products industry in the UK.

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