STARTING from 13 December, 2023, non-assured UK livestock farmers will be required to provide a declaration signed by a veterinarian following an annual farm visit in order for their products to be eligible for export to the EU.
This new requirement is due to an EU animal health regulation change mandating farms producing animals or products of animal origin (POAO) for export to have regular veterinary visits. The previous temporary requirement, which involved a farmer declaration, will be replaced by this new procedure.
To obtain this declaration, farmers must undergo regular animal health checks conducted by qualified veterinarians. During these visits, the vet will be required to carry out a visual assessment of the farm to confirm freedom of notifiable diseases. No sampling or laboratory testing is required. It is important to note that this does not need to be the sole purpose of the visit and can be combined with other visits covering routine work, providing that all species present at the premises are considered.
The vet visits should occur at least once during a 12-month period. If the visiting vet considers a need for a subsequent visit before the 12-month mark, this information will be communicated to the operator (livestock owner/keeper) and clearly stated in the declaration.
Farmers who are part of an approved farm assurance scheme already meet the requirement for a veterinary visit. Their participation in the scheme is already noted as part of the food chain information so no additional veterinary declaration is required. Schemes currently approved are: Red Tractor, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Farm Assured Welsh Livestock Beef and Lamb Scheme (FAWL) and Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers Ltd (WLBP).
If your farm has had an annual health and welfare review as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, then this visit will also fulfil the requirements. You will need to retain the receipt from your visit as evidence as official veterinarians certifying goods for export do not have any access to the AHWP database.
Originally, Defra had announced that these regulatory changes would take effect on 13 December, 2022. However, after industry raised concerns, the government agreed to delay the implementation of the new rule by a year, allowing farmers more time to prepare for the change and arrange the necessary vet visits.
While the exact mechanism for the transmission of these new veterinary attestations through the supply chain (from farmer to market to processor) remains unclear, digital solutions are currently under discussion and are being strongly encouraged by various stakeholders.
Dr Phil Hadley, AHDB’s International Trade Development Director, said: “The UK ships approximately 72% of all its meat exports to the EU. It is particularly significant for the sheep meat sector, with 94% of sheep meat exports destined for the EU with a value of £475 million in 2022. In addition to this, £274 million worth of pig products and £347 million worth of beef meat was exported from the UK to the EU in 2022.”
“A large part of AHDB’s work concerns securing market access and international trade opportunities on behalf of levy payers, in partnership with the UK government and industry. The organisation’s role includes supporting farmers with their export health certification, and with UK meat exports continuing to climb we’re focussing on the future to identify new markets for our exporters, ensuring UK meat is enjoyed in more countries around the world.”