Government action needed to protect food trucks through Calais

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Fresh produce in trucks passing through Calais is being wasted
Fresh produce in trucks passing through Calais is being wasted

Related tags: Food, Spain, Food standards agency

A “united, cohesive plan” is needed to protect drivers, vehicles and food products at the Port of Calais, according to a leading trade body.

The Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF) claimed the problems at Calais were getting increasingly worse and having a dramatic impact on the UK's fresh produce and chilled food chain.

The trade body was having regular conversations with its members about the added costs and cargo losses they were facing, as well as the threats of physical violence to their drivers, it said.

A truck driver was threatened with a chainsaw and a lorry carrying fruit and vegetables was set on fire during a night of violence in Calais on July 29.

Many transport companies have also been forced to find alternative routes and many have decided to stop receiving goods through Calais because of the disruption caused by illegal immigrants being found in the back of vehicles.

Food products rejected

Many food products were then being rejected, and the cargo of damaged goods had to be sorted at considerable added cost, added the FSDF.

“As home secretary, our new Prime Minister Theresa May was very involved with this issue and her ministerial team have had many meetings with the French interior minister to develop solutions to the Calais problems,"​ said FSDF ceo Chris Sturman.

“We sincerely hope that this high level of understanding ensures that the problems continue to receive a high level of government focus and, as a result, a united, cohesive plan is developed to protect drivers, vehicles and food products and to avoid the situation to get any worse.

“This issue is not going away any time soon. With the threat of the end of the Touquet agreement and migrants looking at other opportunities to enter the UK, there is a lot of uncertainty and the industry has to adapt alongside the increasingly risky, dangerous and desperate attempts by the migrants to get onboard their vehicles. 

‘Ongoing process’

“It is an ongoing process which we cannot see an end to at this point, and FSDF is working with the Home Office, UK Border Force, Food Standards Agency, Fresh Produce Consortium(FPC)  and other industry bodies to find solutions and avoid further UK food supply chain disruption.”

Nigel Jenney, chief executive, of the FPC agreed that the industry needed help from government.

“UK fresh produce companies continue to face problems associated with stowaways on board vehicles coming into the UK, not just at Calais but elsewhere.

“It’s vital that all parts of the supply chain, the UK government and its agencies work together to deter stowaways and prevent these incidents. 

“Whilst we have provided guidance to our members, we are pressing for the UK government to take more action to penalise poor security on vehicles, protect drivers and staff, and maintain the integrity of our products.”

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