Unicorn Ingredients is navigating its way through a change to the EU inspection regime on organic products, which have hit its shipments of seeds from China.

Unicorn Ingredients is preparing to advise customers of several percentage point price increases on organic seeds, as a new EU inspection regime causes chaos at the ports. Imports of organic products including seeds, cereals, malt and goji berries to the EU from countries including China have been hit by New Year changes to EU rules, which caught industry and ports unawares.

A new regime, which came into effect on January 1, means that specified organic products from China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova and the Russian Federation are being detained for a series of sampling tests before being released from port.

Consignments will undergo up to three tests to check for pesticide residues at their point of entry into the EU.

Unicorn Ingredients joint MD Frank Horan said that the changes mean a several percent increase to the end price of the product, and potentially delay shipments by several weeks as containers are held at port waiting for analysis.

The new regime was first indicated by the EU on 28 November 2018, but has caught ports and importers out as it was not well publicised. Unicorn was notified via its Chinese office that there was a problem with shipments at the start of 2019.

Shipments in five product categories are affected: Cereals, products of the milling industry; malt; starches; inulin; wheat gluten; Oil seeds and oleaginous fruits; miscellaneous grains, seeds and fruit; industrial or medicinal plants; straw and fodder (including Sunflower seeds); Residues and waste from the food industries, prepared animal fodder and Goji berries and products processed from them. These will be subject to scrutiny at the point of entry to the EU.

Port Health Authorities are sending samples from shipments to a UKAS accredited laboratory (the UK’s National Accreditation Body) for analysis for the presence of pesticide residues.

An EU statement says that the Committee on Organic Production, the Commission and EU Member States had assessed irregularities on imported products from the specified countries:

“This assessment has led to the conclusion that increased control and reporting measures are necessary for certain imported organic products.”

An Organic Certificate of Inspection will now only be endorsed when sample results have been received.

The costs of keeping the containers waiting in the dock and of the sampling and analysis will be passed on to the importer. The costs of analysis tests are currently unconfirmed with the testing laboratory.

If a shipment fails its tests, the shipper can either send it back or bring it into the country as non-organic product.