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335160

British meat industry warns new red tape could hammer exports to EU

LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - New UK government regulations set to come into force in December could prevent thousands of British meat producers from exporting to the European Union, the industry warned on Tuesday.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said a requirement for farms wishing to export to the EU to provide documents signed by vets that confirm visits to farms rather than the current system of farmer declaration was not achievable by the government's Dec. 13 deadline.

It said that while the new rules would not impact farms covered by a UK Farm Assurance scheme such as Red Tractor, thousands of other farms would need to have a signed vet visit before the deadline.

It estimated the new rules, which it said have not been demanded by the EU, would take over a year to implement, partly due to a shortage of vets. It noted 72% of all UK meat exports go to the EU.

"If regulatory changes about to be introduced by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) ... are allowed to go ahead on that date, a significant amount of the UK’s meat production will become non-compliant for export to the EU overnight," the BMPA said in a letter to Defra minister Mark Spencer.

It warned of a "devastating effect" on farmers, auction markets and meat processors, an immediate impact on UK livestock prices and disruption to the supply chain.

"This in turn will drive food price inflation for consumers as the industry is forced to recover lost export revenue and additional costs through higher prices," it said.

The letter, calling for an urgent meeting with government, is signed by a dozen industry organisations including the British Poultry Association, the British Pig Association, the National Sheep Association and the National Farmers Union.

Defra said it was aware of the concerns raised by industry about the process of providing evidence of regular vet visits.

A spokesperson said the department was engaging with businesses and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to try and ease the burden on exporters. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Gregorio)

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