Agristo develops, produces, and exports frozen French fries and other potato products to more than 130 countries around the world from their facilities in Belgium and the Netherlands. At least a third of their production goes to the United Kingdom, the largest French fry consumer country in Europe, so the advent of Brexit had significant implications. Luckily, Agristo had started digitizing their export formalities in 2016, putting them ahead of the game in preparation for Brexit. Nevertheless, more preparation was required in order for their trade to flow seamlessly come Brexit day.
Over the nearly three and a half years between when the UK voted to withdraw from the European Union and customs formalities between the two took effect, there were lots of changes that were proposed and new processes and technology systems that the UK and EU needed to implement. With negotiations and changes being made until the eleventh hour, substantiating a scenario of what Brexit would look like for Agristo was difficult.
“The biggest challenge in preparing for Brexit was filtering information from all kinds of channels to determine what was relevant to our company. Often, that information was conflicting, which was quite frustrating. One of C4T’s strengths is their in-depth knowledge of customs, so they helped us sort out Brexit regulations and determine what preparations we needed to make.”
Since January of 2017, Agristo has used C4T’s customs accounting system (CAS) to support its export declarations in the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In July of 2018, they added import systems and implemented the CAS Special Procedures module to realise customs duty savings. In 2019, after obtaining their AEO with guidance from Customs4trade, they turned once again to C4T’s experts as they began focusing on digitizing their import customs flows.
“C4T worked together with our team to set up the Brexit flows in our systems. Their experience integrating with ERPs, in our case, SAP, made the implementation go faster. Automating these customs operations created efficiency in administration and continuity in logistics, for example allowing us to load 24/7. This likely has given us a competitive advantage.”
Agristo has fully automated the customs process using CAS. There is no need to manually fill in documents and print them. When the truck leaves Agristo’s premises, the customs services receive all the necessary documents digitally. When the trucks enter the ship via a priority lane, the customs officers immediately know what is in the truck by means of the license plate. This allows Agristo to transfer its products across the channel more smoothly than other companies.
“We are very pleased with the Brexit transition. Like any new system, a few small bugs cropped up, but no insurmountable problems and, most importantly, our customers were satisfied with the continuity we provided. In fact, we shipped to the UK in full as of January 2nd, unlike other companies who were a bit hesitant in the first week.”
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