As the UK government prepares to implement new post-Brexit regulations this week, concerns grow over a potential shortage of veterinarians in Europe. The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) stated that the scarcity of vet availability may lead to delays in meat imports to the UK.

BMPA trade policy adviser Peter Hardwick anticipates that suppliers will adhere to the UK government’s rules. Some major suppliers may refrain from sending orders without the necessary health certificates. The government will launch the first stage of its new border policy on Wednesday. It will affect the importation of plant and animal products from the European Union.

Under the current stage of the “border target operating model,” all meat and dairy exports to the UK must be checked by a European country of origin vet. Vets are required to complete a detailed seven-page document certifying that the animals are free of disease and have received specific vaccinations.

Concerns are not only limited to the UK, but also among meat exporters in various EU countries, particularly due to constraints in the veterinary capability of countries such as Germany and Poland. Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export and International Trade, highlights the longstanding issue of vet shortages in Europe, particularly in rural areas.

A 2020 survey by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe revealed that nearly four in five EU countries were already experiencing shortages of vets. The new regulations are expected to exacerbate the strain on Europe’s already stretched veterinary workforce.

The BMPA notes that approximately 1.5 million tonnes of meat and poultry are imported into the UK from the EU annually, equivalent to 50,000 lorry loads. The issue has prompted the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union to enter negotiations with the UK government to address concerns.

Industry bodies suggest that the UK government may adopt a lenient approach for importers failing to meet all requirements, issuing warnings rather than turning lorries back. However, Marco Forgione emphasises that even with a light-touch approach, the necessary forms still need to be signed, as essential datasets and information are required for documentary submission.