50 Shades of Grey for machinery exports

Following our exit from the EU on 1st January 2021 the rules changed for the export of second hand machinery used for agricultural and forestry purposes into the EU and Northern Ireland.

All used machinery must now be washed and cleaned before shipping to ensure that it is free from soil and plant debris, as  our soil is no longer EU soil and therefore may be contaminated.  In fact agricultural machinery is classed with planting materials as “high risk”.

The machinery is then subject to inspection by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) and phyto-sanitary certificates issues for export.  A minimum 7 day advance written notice is required providing full details of exporter, country of destination, Commodity Codes, point of entry to EU or NI so that the inspector can match the criteria of that particular country.  The inspections are subject to charges of £63.80 per 15 minutes with a minimum charge of £127.60 but under the NI Protocol this charge can be reclaimed for anything going direct to NI.  Initial guidance from DEFRA described the level of cleanliness to be “as new condition”.

Needless to say there was considerable confusion and a lack of guidance in January with many wagons of machinery entering NI without cleaning or certificates and not being  stopped or checked.  Elsewhere the whole process has proved to be painful, time consuming and costly with inconsistency on inspections and many rejections.

Non agricultural machinery is not subject to the rules even if it has come from the same farm, such as a JCB digger or generator.  Again there are a lot of grey areas particularly in respect of wheels and tyres and what constitutes agricultural.

New guidance has now been issued by DEFRA which instead of saying “as new” now refers to machinery being washed and cleaned to ensure the machinery is “visually free from soil and other debris, that is to say there should be no appreciable signs of soil or other debris”.  There are also revised Customs Commodity Codes that the certificates apply to and which strangely seem to exclude sprayers, forage harvesters and trailers which does not seem to make any logical sense.

EU and NI buyers are still very keen to purchase although delaying pick-ups until there is a bit more clarity and consistency.  There are a number of Irish hauliers particularly into NI that still seem able to pick up without cleaning or certificates, and head back without being challenged.  Reports on machinery heading into mainland Europe are very different with many items being rejected for failing to meet cleanliness standards, or turned back for failure to have the correct paperwork.  Our first consignments due out to Eastern Europe are currently going through the washing process ready for inspection next so fingers crossed that they comply and we obtain the phyto-sanitary certificate.

Richard Tasker, Partner, Stephensons Rural

 

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