Small businesses berate new import fees

The horticulture sector is not alone in their condemnation for the newly announced post-Brexit, import Common User Charges coming in later this month.

Shipping containers

The government published the details of the Common User Charges (CUCs) importers of plant (related and animal) products will be facing for checks on goods coming into the country through Dover and the Eurotunnel. To be introduced on the 30th of April as part of the government’s Border Operating Model, similar to the checks in place on products entering the EU from the UK. Leaving limited time to process the new rates, businesses argued that the details should have been published months ago.

According to a recent article by Jack Simpson in the Guardian, small UK firms, retailers and trade bodies are warning the government that the new levies could wipe out their hard-earned profits and makes importing some products unfeasible. The new charges, of up to £145 per consignment, will result in the limitation of ranges they can feasibly offer, or result in a price increase to cover the costs.

Quoted in the article, Nigel Jenney, Fresh Produce Consortium Chief Executive, reiterated that the changes will simply result in small businesses having to pay thousands of pounds extra, raising prices and limited consumer choice. “This may mean reducing the range available for customers, or simply accepting the costs, which the consumer will have to fund, and lead to food inflation, caused solely by the UK government”, he said.

The Director General of the Institute of Export & International Trade, Marco Forgione made the valid point, that whilst larger business may be able to absorb the extra, it will be the small businesses that will be hit hardest, where the additional £145 could wipe out any profit. The Horticultural Trade Association added that plant sellers, whom habitually import more than five product lines would incur the full charge for each delivery resulting in considerable and probably insurmountable cost increases.