Britain’s Dover delays damaging fresh produce exports, producers warn
British food producers warned today that perishable goods were losing their value due to congestion around the port of Dover caused by disruption to ferry services and customs operations.
Several issues have converged to cause a perfect storm of problems at Dover, the main route for road freight to mainland Europe.
P&O Ferries, which previously accounted for a third of capacity at Dover, suspended operations last month after an attempt to replace 800 staff with lower-paid workers led to criminal and civil probes from UK authorities.
That loss of capacity has been exacerbated by heavy Easter holiday tourist traffic and technical problems with a government customs website which provides documentation needed since Brexit.
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said its members have reported that fresh meat has been stranded for one to two days and possibly longer due to the current problems.
“When delays like this happen the product’s shelf life, and its value, is reduced,” the BMPA’s CEO Nick Allen said in a statement.
“Also, in our ‘just-in-time’ food supply chain, this kind of failure to supply means that we start to lose EU customers, who turn to other countries to provide a more reliable supply of product,” he said.
Allen criticised authorities for not prioritising the flow of perishable food.
Environment minister George Eustice told BBC television his understanding was the queues, which stretched over 20 miles on Friday, were starting to clear. He said establishing a priority lane for lorries carrying perishable goods wasn’t realistic.
“You need a way of identifying the lorries, you’d need to be able to corral them at a particular area and then escort them past other traffic to get on to the ferry and it’s quite a complicated thing to pull off actually,” he said.
“The right thing to do is to clear this backlog and get things moving again.”
The Road Haulage Association said there was still “heavy freight queues” at Dover though the volume of freight traffic has reduced in the past 24 hours.
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