The ‘Brexit’ continues to be a source of uncertainty for the regional fruit and vegetable sector. On April 1, the United Kingdom’s control measures regarding products imported from other countries will be tightened, with new requirements for phytosanitary certificates and new procedures, a fact that directly affects the Region of Murcia, which exports more than 483,000 tons of fruit and vegetables per year and more than 235,000 tons of transformed products, with an economic value of 537 and 210 million euros, respectively, encompassing the transport and logistics sector to make it possible. Since the entry into force of ‘Brexit’, negotiation mechanisms have been put in place to manage its impact on one of the most dynamic sectors of the regional economy and that grew the most last year, in the midst of a pandemic, both in volume and turnover with respect to other exporting communities. Now it faces a new challenge such as customs procedures in a market in which the Region has managed to remain mature thanks to its inertia, drive and quality of its products.
Taking a current X-ray of what this new measure can mean was the axis around which the ‘webinar’ ‘Brexit news of the horticultural sector’ turned, organized by LA VERDAD and the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, and moderated by the head of the Local area of the newspaper, Manuel Buitrago. This event brought together experts from the sector to contribute points of view from producers to transporters, such as Juan Marín Bravo, president of Proexport; Miguel López Abad, president of the Chamber of Commerce; José María Martínez Miralles, CEO of Grupo Caliche; Joaquín Gómez Carrasco, president of Apoexpa; and Manuel Pérezcarro Martín, general secretary of Froet.
“We need mechanisms that allow us to export in an agile way and not fall into the customs procedures of the middle of the last century”, says Antonio Luengo
62% of all exports from the Region of Murcia to the United Kingdom are fruit and vegetable products, a weight that justifies the need for information on the procedures to be carried out to minimize the impact. As clarified by the Minister of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Environment, Antonio Luengo Zapata, during the opening of the event, only a small percentage of shipments will have a customs inspection by the Ministry and will be the United Kingdom, a through a pre-notification system for recipients, which would select the controls to be carried out at the destination and will increase from July. “Trucks carrying fruit and vegetables from Spain may circulate with a single phytosanitary certificate and not one for each plant product, an appropriate measure to speed up, but it remains to be seen how it will be implemented,” he says.
Juan Marín Bravo (Proexport): «The ‘Brexit’ harms the English consumer, because that is how it is transmitted to us»
The president of Proexport sees the relationship of Murcian companies with the large British importers with maturity and stability. “Many Murcian companies are established in the United Kingdom because our products are precious, and this exit from ‘Brexit’ harms the English consumer because that is how they transmit it to us; It hurts importers and chains, and it is affecting Murcian producers, who had it as a reference when it came to making our programs and planning our harvests, “said Juan Marín. For him, the British market is ‘irreplaceable’. He stressed the need for the EU to provide new competitiveness measures to survive in the differentiation of products and increased costs, reinforcing the value of “safe supplier” and reaching out for the development of contracts.
“We continue to work thanks to the quality of our products and the trust of customers, but with many concerns to see what will happen in the future,” he added.
«There are many challenges that lie ahead. We are in the second transitory period and it is essential to have all the machinery engaged, the system tested and to be sure that we have sufficient trained personnel and that an increase in bureaucracy is not carried out, “he said, adding that” we need mechanisms that allow us to export in an agile way and not fall into the customs procedures of the middle of the last century ». At the same time, he praised the quality of the products of the primary sector, as well as “a totally mature, agile and efficient transport system.” “We have to explain to society that we are capable of carrying out an export to the UK in a totally normal way,” he said.
Operational and cost issues
The transport of these goods to the United Kingdom has a double problem: operational and cost, the latter stipulated at 8% more for the transport sector. Regarding the first aspect, one of the main problems encountered by the sector is the difficulties of fruit and vegetable trucks in terms of returns due to bureaucratic reasons, sending goods but with delays in their return. “It has been detected that in our exports there are fewer complications but in imports from the United Kingdom to the European Union there are many complications and delays in customs,” said Manuel Pérezcarro, although he clarified that the United Kingdom is in a period of “raising its hand ‘, But is concerned about what will happen after this transitional period passes.
Experts warn of the increase in transport costs, the distortion of product prices and the fact that trucks return empty
“Something as important as the costs are those stops at customs that represent a very great damage, because we need those hours to arrive both at destination and to return to origin, load and bring those supplies,” said José María Martínez, from Grupo Caliche.
Miguel López Abad (Murcia Chamber of Commerce): «It would be chaos to handle thousands of trucks through customs»
The Chamber of Commerce oversees the Murcia customs as a public law entity. From their facilities they carry out physical inspections of vehicles that leave for third countries, which is why the new situation of ‘Brexit’ influences. “It would be chaos to attend to thousands of trucks through customs, because we would be talking about more than double the activity, which telematically with devices is not a problem and with personnel not by the Chamber, but when carrying out these random inspections we clearly see that we would just double all the activity, “said Miguel López Abad, president of the institution. “The problem is that it physically does not have the capacity to accommodate that many trucks and that influx without causing a traffic jam,” he added. “The reading that we do from the Chamber is that our job is to do what we have done, raise our hands, say where we could go and among all seek solutions,” he concluded.
Juan Marín highlighted the “laborious and expensive” normality of sending goods and that trucks have problems in returns because they cannot return empty. “Now we are faced with what will happen from April 1 with the phytosanitary controls and what will happen in June, with the double control that we want to do,” he added.
The Minister of Agriculture and Food, Luis Planas, visited the Region a few days ago to address key issues, including ‘Brexit’, affirming the simplification of customs procedures with electronic and telematic supports, as well as the reinforcement of necessary human and material resources . After this, the sector looks hopeful that it is fulfilled and not having to translate it into new requirements on April 2.
José María Martínez (Grupo Caliche): «As carriers we are looking for other solutions»
From Grupo Caliche, José María Martínez asked for solutions for April 1, taking into account the volume of transport in the Region, with a load of more than 31,000 trucks for export that represent 14% of the total in Spain. In addition to pointing out the need for “telematic agility”, he spoke of the saturation of the Murcia customs. “As carriers we are looking for other solutions in other provinces, but it involves a very important problem: if there is a rejection, they have to return to their warehouses of origin,” he added. He noted as part of the solution to have warehouses to issue the documentation of the merchandise, as well as telematic procedures of customs management to “be much more flexible of origin and not depend exclusively on customs”, especially on the agility for formalities in the end of week.
However, exporters are concerned that the UK has open relationships with other competing countries as they are outside the EU. “Things will never be the same as before and we have to assimilate and assume it, because a third country may have facilities in the process, but the United Kingdom will not be part of the EU unless things change,” said Joaquín Gómez Carrasco, president de Apoexpa, who added that “the problem is what the English are going to do with their agrarian policy and how it is going to influence some and others.” “The pressure of the markets is going to be very important and that translates into falling prices,” he added.
Joaquín Gómez (Apoexpa): “The pressure on the markets is going to be very important”
For Joaquín Gómez, the benefits that the Region of Murcia offers as an exporter are unbeatable logistics, the freshness of the product and innovation. “Our competition comes from politically very unstable countries that nobody trusts in the medium and long term. The advantage is that we are not going to fail them ”, he added, emphasizing its reliability to sell in the English market. However, “the pressure on the markets is going to be very important and that translates into falling prices. You have to put the batteries, “he encouraged. He also pointed out the need for a telematics solution to transport the 3,500 shipments of table grapes that are carried out in the summer months, when civil servants are on vacation. He conveyed the need for the client not to notice the difference between before and after ‘Brexit’.
«We are going to have a lot of competition. We must analyze those agreements with Turkey, Egypt and Morocco that can hit us fully due to their proximity, “said Juan Bravo, adding the problem of UK nationalism with its products in weeks in which indigenous and imported production overlap .
In this sense, Miguel López Abad stressed the need to “take into account the new players that appear on the market and that are going to hurt us a lot.” «We have good words but few facts. We have to be vigilant and we cannot rest on our laurels, “he said.
Manuel Pérezcarro (Froet): «This insecurity is what worries us the most»
“The ‘Brexit’ has been like a suspense movie and now we are in the second part of the ‘thriller’; we do not know what will happen. That insecurity is what worries us the most. With these words, the general secretary of Froet, Manuel Pérezcarro described the current scenario with respect to the United Kingdom, in which he perceives great concern about the commercial relationship. “This film will end better than we expected in the end, but for now what we have is uncertainty about how that path will develop,” he added. He criticized the delays suffered by the vehicles. “There are more trucks entering loaded, than loading to leave, and this is producing a very significant cost increase,” he said, referring to the need for more vehicles and drivers. “Either we are able to pass on this cost increase to our customers, or else we will have to go preferably to other parts of Europe where the activity is more profitable. We will have to make a decision that nobody wants, because the UK is very important to us, ”he added.