UK food producers face ‘black Christmas’ as goods perish amid border gridlock

‘Many, many businesses are going to have a very difficult few days trying to work out if they continue,’ says Food and Drink Federation Scotland

Lorry drivers clash with police in Dover

Food producers face a "black Christmas" with stocks perishing due to a backlog of lorries in Kent which is not being resolved quickly enough, an industry boss has said.

Freight began moving again on Wednesday morning after France lifted a ban in inbound traffic from the UK.

But delays continued as thousands of drivers had to be tested for coronavirus before transporting their cargo across the Channel.

With hauliers saying the gridlock would take days to clear, some exporters will not be able to get their goods to customers in time, said Food and Drink Federation Scotland (FDFS) chief executive David Thomson.

He told the BBC: "For those people who export fresh and perishable goods, particularly seafood and salmon in Scotland, it's been an absolutely disastrous few days and it will lead to a black Christmas for those businesses.

"The deal will be far too late for many people who are delivering perishable goods to the continent.

"It's too late now to get to customers before Christmas."

Companies have told the FDFS that the loss of Christmas sales may spell the end of their operation, Mr Thomson said.

"We've heard of companies that are saying this is the final straw for them and that they will not be able to deal with the losses," he said.

"People have to pay farmers and fishermen, people have to deal with the customers they've let down and they will not make the money that they would do in what is of course the most lucrative few days of the year for most food businesses in the lead up to Christmas.

"Many, many businesses are going to have a very difficult few days trying to work out if they continue."

Despite worries over exports, Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday she has no concerns about shortages of food because of the delays.

Addressing MSPs, the first minister said: "We have no immediate concerns about food supplies. Supermarkets are well stocked. And so there is absolutely no need for anyone to buy more than planned."

Mr Thomson echoed the first minister's statement and said he is "not concerned in the short-term", but he added that some fresh vegetables which are out of season may see a delay, but the end of the backlog at the border will help relieve pressure on the supply chain.

Ms Sturgeon has called for perishable goods to be prioritised as lorries get moving again in Kent.

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