The Government has been urged to establish a border inspection point (BIP) at the Port of Cork so that imported non-EU goods, including fresh foods such as carrots, do not have to be driven to Dublin for customs clearance.
Many of the cleared goods then have to be driven back to distribution hubs in Munster for sale.
Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said the system is increasing costs and the administrative burden on the import businesses involved.
It also delays the arrival of fresh produce on shop shelves and could be adding to the cost to consumers, he said.
“This is particularly problematic for those importing fresh produce,” Mr Burke said.
Affected import businesses say the inspection process only takes a few minutes for an inspector to open the door of a container, check the produce for phytosanitary purposes, and place a stamp on the goods, but that they have to drive to Dublin to get that check.
Mr Burke and his party colleague, senator Jerry Buttimer, who both raised the issue recently, said a simple administrative solution is available.
While the Port of Cork is a designated border control post for container shipments of wood and wood products, with inspections taking place at the Tivoli container terminal, it does not have the physical infrastructure for handling food products.
Charlie McConalogue, the agriculture minister, said as the Port of Cork was embarking on its massive expansion of facilities at Ringaskiddy, a number of meetings took place between his department and port authorities, during which port bosses said they would consider developing a BIP in later phases of the expansion project.
The port has now submitted a business case for a border control post capable of handling food products, he said, and his officials are considering this.
Such facilities can only be located in a customs-controlled area, a designation determined by Revenue, and the business case can only be considered in that context.
He said his department’s focus in recent years has been on expanding border control post infrastructure at Dublin Port and on building an interim facility at Rosslare Port to deal with sanitary and phytosanitary goods being imported into the EU single market from Great Britain, post Brexit.
Work on plans for a permanent facility in Rosslare Europort has recently been completed.
The Port of Cork, which has around 150 staff, handled 10.5m tonnes of trade in 2020.