Aberdeenshire Council agrees to vary fees for export health certificates from January 1 2021

Aberdeenshire Council has agreed to vary the fees on export health certificates for food producers when they begin exporting to the EU from January 1 2021.

The greatest volume of both processed and unprocessed food exports from Aberdeenshire is to the European Economic Area.

With the end of the EU Transition Deal expected to occur on January 1, the United Kingdom will be considered by Europe as a third country for trade, irrespective of the outcome of ongoing negotiations to agree a Free Trade Agreement.

That will mean businesses exporting animal products to the EU in these circumstances will need to apply for an export health certificate (EHC) in order to clear border controls.

An EHC confirms that exports meet the health requirements of the destination country.

The council is providing advice and support to the business sector as the UK nears the end of the EU transition period.

On Thursday (Oct 1), the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee agreed that EHC fees may need to be reduced for export certificates to the EU and Northern Ireland to support the North-east fishing industry.

It delegated powers to the Head of Service for Economic Development and Protective Services to vary the fee during the first six months of 2021, in consultation with the Head of Finance, ISC chair, vice-chair and Opposition spokesperson.

Councillors were told it was anticipated that up to 1,000 export health certificates may have to be issued in Aberdeenshire each week.

The committee also heard that the Scottish Government has requested that Food Standards Scotland take on the responsibility of coordinating national logistics hubs to relieve the burden on local authorities.

These hubs would provide the necessary staffing resources to issue EHCs - located in transportation hubs in central Scotland - and would relieve some of the pressure on Aberdeenshire Council officials.

Head of Economic Development and Protective Services, Belinda Miller, said afterwards: “We do, however, anticipate that several North-east fish processing companies, especially the larger ones, who do not use transportation hubs or need to share loads will still expect the council to provide them with EHCs. Our Environmental Health teams are looking into the option of creating a trial base in Peterhead Fish Market which would enable us to issue EHCs 12 hours-a-day, six days-a-week.”

Infrastructure Service Committee chair, Cllr Peter Argyle, said: “This is an issue that is getting increasingly important as we approach the end of this calendar year and our final ending of the transition period. There are significant challenges facing the catching and fish processing sectors in particular at this time and the council’s key priority will be to continue supporting businesses as best we can.”

Vice-chair Cllr John Cox added: “I am hugely-impressed with the ongoing work being undertaken by our Environmental Health teams in preparation for these new processes to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible. It is important to note that the fishing industry is also very appreciative of the work and support being provided by the council. We have without question the world’s best food both land and sea. Food processors rose to the Covid-17 challenge to keep the food supply going, so I hope technicalities do not get in the way now.”

Key facts

Agriculture, food and drink, the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, is a major component of the economy of North-east Scotland, generating annual turnover of £2.2 billion and employment for 22,000 people in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray.

At 32%, the largest segment (£700 million pa) is fishing (c.1,300 jobs) and seafood processing (c.4,000 jobs), followed by drinks (23%), bakery (13%) and meat processing (11%), with others accounting for 21%.

In 2018, Scottish Sea Fisheries statistics revealed that 57% by volume and 45% by value of fish landings into Scotland by Scottish, UK and foreign vessels were into NE ports (mainly Peterhead and Fraserburgh) – respectively 199,180 tonnes and £233.3 million.

The North Sea and NE Atlantic is a very mixed fishery - in excess of 25 species are landed at local markets, but domestic demand is largely confined to a very narrow species range. The EU market is therefore vital for nephrops (£108.2 million in 2018*), scallops (£88.9 million), monkfish (£30.4 million), herring (£34.2 million), mackerel (£81.1 million) – and also saithe, hake, megrim and squid.

(*figures are UK totals but are heavily derived from NE output)