Heads of food organisations – including the Food and Drink Federation, the Fresh Produce Consortium, the UK Food and Drink Exporters Association and the Chilled Food Association – have written an open letter to George Eustice, environment secretary, and Grant Shapps, transport secretary, calling for immediate action for businesses caught up in the blockade.
“The decision of the French authorities – to ban accompanied freight on 20 December 2020 – after the announcement by the UK government of the new strain of virus has caused a calamity for many food and drink businesses,” said the letter.
“They have lost millions of pounds of valuable stock directly because of action against which it is impossible to insure.”
The trade bodies added that fresh and perishable food for export has been particularly affected, in traditionally the busiest and most lucrative week of the year for many businesses.
The letter cites the example of seafood and salmon companies, some of whom look to sell 98% of their total catch to the market in Boulogne. For these businesses, “Christmas is already over”, the letter said.
“In addition to the lorries stacked up in queues, many businesses have been unable to send or receive loads since the decision was announced,” it added. “For businesses with perishable food, this is just as devastating as waiting in the queue.”
The trade bodies also pointed out that importers of fresh ingredients, fruit and vegetables and the wholesale sector that supplies hospitals and care homes rely on 3,000 manned vehicles coming into the UK every day via the Short Straits.
“These supplies have been decimated by this week’s events,” the letter said, adding, “These same wholesalers have lost business with the closure of hospitality and foodservice and many will not survive this further blow without additional government support.”
The organisations warned that an increasing number of food and drink businesses would be impacted by the crisis, with future deliveries affected, hampering both the export of finished products and the import of raw materials, packaging and industrial supplies.
“The whole production chain will be affected and may need support,” the letter said.
It added: “We ask that government urgently create a compensation scheme for losses incurred to support businesses directly affected by this crisis and to ensure the future of our critical food and drink sector.
“We stand ready to help the design and delivery of any compensation scheme in any way.”
- The full list of signatories is as follows:
- Ian Wright CBE, chief executive, Food and Drink Federation
- Karin Goodburn MBE, director general, Chilled Food Association
- Andrew Kuyk, director general, Provision Trade Association
- James Withers, chief executive, Scotland Food & Drink
- Michael Bell, executive director, Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association
- Nigel Jenney, chief executive, Fresh Produce Consortium
- Elsa Fairbairn, director, UK Food and Drink Exporters Association
- Richard Harrow, chief executive, British Frozen Food Association
- Dick Searle, chief executive, Packaging Federation
- Norman Bagley, head of policy, Association of Independent Meat Suppliers
- Jim Winship, director, British Sandwich & Food to Go Association
- James Bielby, chief executive, Federation of Wholesale Distributors
- Philip Law, director general, British Plastics Federation
- Richard Griffiths, chief executive, British Poultry Council
- Dr Sharon Hall, chief executive, UK Tea & Infusions Association
- Paul Rooke, executive director, British Coffee Association
- Nick Allen, CEO, British Meat Processors Association
- David Thomson, CEO, FDF Scotland
- Pete Roberston, CEO, FDF Cymru
- Parminder Kaur, chair, Council for Responsible Nutrition
- Alex Waugh, director general, UK Flour Millers
- Gordon Polson, chief executive, Federation of Bakers
- Walter Anzer MBE, director general, British Food Importers & Distributors Association
- Colin Smith, chief executive, Scottish Wholesale Association