The Health Made Easy group, one of the UK's biggest health food businesses, has stated that the new, post-Brexit system for sending organic food from the Britain to Northern Ireland is a "nightmare." The group has shipped no organic products to the island of Ireland since Christmas.
Northern Ireland is still in the EU's single market for goods and so is continuing to follow EU food safety rules. All organic food entering from GB must have a Certificate of Inspection (CoI), a time-consuming piece of administration. The government says it will talk to the EU about streamlining this process.
John Gibson, vice chair of Health Made Easy, says they make annual sales of about £10 mln to the island of Ireland, but he described how shipping organic goods had now become a "nightmare" and "virtually impossible at scale".
Each organic product type that leaves GB for NI must have a CoI, which involves the exporter making an entry on an EU system known as Traces NT. They have to key in details such as weight, origin and whether any of the goods are high risk. For a consignment going to retailers that will involve dozens or even hundreds of individual entries. Those details then need to be checked and approved by a certification body, like the Soil Association. Finally, in Northern Ireland, a certified importer must confirm the goods have been received.