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Lack of official vets amid Brexit uncertainty

Concerns that the Government will not have enough vets to deal with export certifications in the wake of a Brexit no-deal have been raised by the poultrymeat sector’s leading trade organisation.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) said it was unrealistic to think that 140 vets across England would be able to deal with an estimated 300% increase in export certificates in the event of a no deal.

Speaking at the Poultry Health Management conference, Maire Burnett, BPC technical director, said it was possible export certificates would be needed for the poultry meat sector, which might have to be signed at slaughterhouse and cold store stages.

She was responding to comments by Dr Andrew Solden, Animal and Plant Health Agency veterinary director, who highlighted the figure earlier at the conference when touching on contingency planning Brexit issues. Numbers of vets for Scotland and Wales were considerably lower.

Photo: Richard Stanton
Photo: Richard Stanton

Commenting on the Government’s latest Brexit withdrawal proposals, she said that while she needed to see more of the detail, she was “at the moment happy with what was on the table”.

“Our biggest fear is to have hold ups at the border,” she added.

The BPC is concerned about the Government’s contingency plans to allow swift entry of fresh, chilled, perishable goods. About 35% of poultry consumed in the UK is imported and three quarters of that come from the European Union.

Another fear remains the loss of labour, especially from Eastern Europe, which prompted Ms Burnett to say that it would take several years to rebalance these losses with UK labour.

“We cannot feed a nation without access to enough workers at all skilled levels,” she added, pointing out that the industry pays £1bn in tax contributions to the Exchequer but receives no subsidy in return.

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