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Coronavirus/COVID-19 - what does it mean for exports?

Posted by andrewivesonadmin | Posted 20th March 2020 | Blog, and News

We are all struggling to come to terms with the significant disruption to our daily lives, as a result of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. It is a fast moving field, with rapidly shifting goalposts, however we will try to explain the effects it is having, and may have, on export certification of products of animal origin, including food.

Currently, within the UK, for food safety purposes and to ensure compliance with EU regulations 852/2004 and 853/2003, DEFRA (the competent authority) delegates this role to the food standards agency (FSA or its devolved equivalents) and local council environmental health departments. FSA will use official vets (OVs) in places such as slaughterhouses and meat cutting plants, while dairies and premises for further processing will usually fall under EHO control.

Short term, there should be no change to this situation. While we are seeing ‘stockpiling’ and ‘panic buying’ in supermarkets, this does place pressure on food business operators to increase production – and in many cases reduce the number of SKUs produced to maximise efficiency. Assuming there is no reduction in manpower through illness in these areas, or indeed through the distribution network from FBO, via the regional distribution centres to the final retail outlets, then this should allow the food supply chain to continue within the UK.

Within the UK, or for the most part the EU, as PX (product export) OVs, we are not involved in this process.  Our role is in signing export health certificates to allow exporters to send their goods to the rest of the world, which normally involved a visual check on the goods, combined with checking the disease freedom and health status of the goods, backed up by supporting documentation as required.

So far, we have seen very little downturn among our regular client base. Some are struggling to book containers/reefers and/or air freight, either through lack of vessels travelling or vastly increased fees.

Like most businesses, we are closely following Government and Public Health England advice regarding coronavirus and acting on the latest information. In practical terms, we are now taking the following steps:-

  • Any of our staff showing clinical signs, or travelled recently to one of the ‘hotspots’, or been in contact with anyone testing positive, should avoid site visits and self isolate
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitiser) before and after every visit and consider the use of PPE eg masks
  • Sneeze/cough into tissues and carefully dispose 
  • Minimise time on site
  • Minimise contact with people on site and keep a distance where feasible eg avoid handshakes and sitting close to people in crowded offices 
  • Consider whether a site visit is essential or whether a load can be certified ‘remotely’.  Our governing body, the RCVS, have sent an email stating any such decision should be ‘reasonable and justifiable’ in light of coronavirus
  • Any loads currently certified remotely should be unaffected, assuming no issues with postal or courier services

 

We are finding in some cases that businesses are restricting visitors on site. We are having to assess this on a case-by-case basis to see if are able to find a way to carry out the certification.

We will of course keep you up to date as best we can.

Amivet Exports covers a wide range of animal products and countries. So, for more advice about Export Health Certificates, call our team of qualified export vets on 01606 278707. Alternatively you can email us at info@amivet.co.uk

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