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UK moves to full cost recovery for SPS inspections, but no agreement yet at EU level

08 June 2014

On 6 April 2014, new plant health inspection fees were introduced in England for all imports requiring a phytosanitary certificate. These fees are set out in The Plant Health (Fees) (England) Regulations 2014, No. 601.

Comparison with earlier fee schedules shows that between 1 January 2011 and 6 April 2014 standard fees increased by around 235%. This applied to both ‘daytime working’ and ‘non-daytime working’ inspection fees.

UK plant health inspection fees for cut flowers and fresh fruit and vegetables (£)

  1 Jan 2011 6 April 2012 6 April 2013 6 April 2014 % change 2011/14
Cut flowers
Up to 20,000 stems
Daytime 14.28 46.98 49.66 47.87 +235.2
Non-daytime 21.42 70.47 74.50 71.80 +235.2
Each additional 1,000 stems

Daytime

Up to max. of

0.11

114.24

0.36

375.84

0.38

397.31

0.37

382.92

+236.4

Non-daytime

Up to max. of

0.16

171.36

0.54

563.76

0.57

595.97

0.55

574.38

+243.8
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Up to 25 tonnes
Daytime 14.28 46.98 49.66 47.87 +235.2
Non-daytime 21.42 70.47 74.50 71.80 +235.2
Each additional tonne
Daytime 0.57 1.88 1.98 1.91 +235.1
Non-daytime 0.85 2.81 2.97 2.87 +237.6

Source: Extracted from Plant Health (Fees) (England) Regulations (various – see below)

Schedule 2 of Regulations 2014 No. 601 sets out the reduced rates applicable to combinations of countries and products where, following risk assessments, reduced rates are charged. For example, the reduced rate inspection fees applicable to certain products from specific East African countries have also increased by around 236%. However, for some countries, the reduced rate charges have increased more substantially, for example for Ethiopian and Tanzanian roses.

Plant health inspection fees for roses from selected East African countries (£ per 20,000 stems)

  1 Jan 2011 6 April 2012 6 April 2013 6 April 2014 % change 2011/14
Kenya

Daytime

Non-daytime

0.71

1.06

2.35

3.52

2.48

3.72

2.39

3.59

+236.6

+238.7

Zambia

Daytime

Non-daytime

3.57

5.35

11.74

17.62

12.42

18.62

11.96

17.95

+235.0

+235.5

Uganda

Daytime

Non-daytime

3.57

5.35

11.74

17.62

12.42

18.62

not available  
Tanzania

Daytime

Non-daytime

1.42

2.13

4.70

7.05

4.96

7.42

7.18

10.77

+505.6

+505.6

Ethiopia

Daytime

Non-daytime

0.71

1.06

2.35

3.52

4.96

7.41

4.78

7.18

+ 598.6

+577.4

Source: Extracted from Plant Health (Fees) (England) Regulations (various – see below)

EC proposals to introduce mandatory recovery of full inspection costs across all EU food and feed supply chains, with special exemption for micro enterprises, have not yet been endorsed by the EU Council and the European Parliament. According to a UK Food Standards Agency update, “on 16 April 2014, the European Parliament voted to approve its position on the articles within the proposal. [The first of two] key amendments approved [was]: flexibility for charging and exempting smaller businesses in line with the UK’s negotiating position”.

This means that neither mandatory full cost recovery nor the “mandatory exemption for micro-enterprises” is endorsed, and that they have both been left to the discretion of member states’ governments. The debate around the EC proposals continues, particularly in “areas where clarity is still required or where there could still be unintended consequences”. 

Editorial comment

Since 2011, the UK has moved to full cost recovery for all official inspections of imports requiring a phytosanitary certificate. Despite the slight downward adjustment of fees in April 2014 to reflect actual costs of controls, the move has resulted in a significant increase in fees charged.

In addition to the increases in fees, the UK inspection service has introduced measures to increase the frequency of inspections in line with EU requirements. This is estimated to have led to an approximate doubling of the frequency of inspections, with each inspection being charged at the higher fee level. On average, this has resulted in an almost sixfold increase in costs of inspections since the first quarter of 2012.

Fee increases have been introduced even where reduced fees were payable due to lower risk. For lower-risk country/product combinations of imports, where risk assessments have been carried out and the risk is judged low, the impact of the fee increases has been mitigated by the lower frequency of inspections. However, for countries with no established track record of exports to the EU (i.e. countries that have not exported more than 200 consignments per annum for 3 years), no such risk assessment is possible, and hence all consignments are inspected. In this case, the burden of the fee increases is greatest. This would apply to ACP exporters seeking to develop non-traditional exports to the EU market.

Moves to full cost recovery in the UK have led to an increase both in fees and in the frequency of inspections of imports. But because of the discretionary nature of the process, no similar cost recovery measures have been adopted vis-à-vis domestic producers of competing products, and the costs of SPS inspections for domestic producers are being paid for from the public purse.

The experience in England provides a benchmark for assessing the potential impact of the final decision on EC proposals to move to mandatory full cost recovery for all official controls throughout the whole EU supply chain. 

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