Trade with Northern Ireland remains difficult for many members despite the NIPHL scheme

The Northern Ireland Plant Health Label (NIPHL)

Trade with Northern Ireland (NI) remains complicated for seed companies, and many BSPB members have been looking into the NIPHL scheme as a way of simplifying the movement of seeds, and allowing seed potatoes to go from GB to NI.

The NIPHL scheme stems from the Windsor Farmwork, and became operational late last year. DEFRA have recently been promoting it as a way to allow seed movements without the need for the administrative burden of phytosanitary certificates, and as a way of sending previously prohibited items like seed potatoes to NI. The intentions of the scheme are laudable, and it may help some companies sending larger consignments to NI, and those dealing with seed potatoes. However, as we examine below there are some significant barriers within the NIPHL system to many other seed movements and we have asked Defra to look into these.

What is NIPHL?

NIPHL covers plants and seeds for planting, and seed potatoes for commercial growing as long as they will remain in Northen Ireland – they cannot move onwards to Ireland or elsewhere in the EU. There are other requirements as well, including:

  • The British operator must be an ‘authorised professional operator’ and the receiver in NI must be a ‘registered professional operator’.
  • Growers and traders must be authorised to issue and print NIPHLs (they’ll be issued by the competent authority for seed potatoes).
  • Goods must have a valid NIPHL attached.

How to access the NIPHL scheme?

Most BSPB members will probably already be a registered professional operators by virtue of being a registered seed company, or being registered with the Seed Potato Classification Scheme, but there is a chance you may have to provide more information for the NIPHL scheme. There’s a link to more detail below, but one possible example of this additional information they list is ‘have appropriate knowledge and competence, for example to recognise pests and diseases of concern’.

Once registered and approved, to use NIPHL you’ll have to examine any plants or seeds to make sure they meet the phytosanitary requirements for Northern Ireland, and attach the printed label to the smallest traceable unit.

Barriers to the seed sector using NIPHL

Things then have the potential to become more complicated for the seed sector, because the GB operator will then have to provide a range of information to the NI receiver so they can complete the pre-notification CHED – PP form. Some aspects of this might be straightforward, but elements like the need to specify the point of entry, the date and time of arrival, and the vehicle registration or container ID will be much more complicated, especially for small packages. This information is required to allow DAERA in NI to prepare to conduct checks on the consignment on arrival at an SPS facility in NI.

We have made it clear to officials that these will essentially make it impossible for some members to use the scheme for many of the consignments they’d like to send to NI such as small packages of commercial seed. Providing that level of detail won’t be possible with many courier services, or the risk of problems if anything goes wrong, or details change are too great. Other issues have also been raised, for example NIPHL only covers seeds for planting, and those seeking to move seed for research or breeding purposes won’t be eligible.

These issues present a significant dilemma for members. The scheme is designed to reduce the burden of seeking a phytosanitary certificate for each consignment through an annual process of gaining approval to issue and print NIPHL labels. The reality is that members are telling us they’ll be forced to continue to use the more administratively burdensome phytosanitary certificates because the cost of using a method of transport which provides the level of information required for NIPHL will be too high, or the risks of something going wrong too great.

More information on NIPHL can be found here. There are some differences between Scotland and England & Wales. .

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