Meat industry reacts to delays at Dover
Meat trade bodies have reacted to the delays at the port of Dover that are seeing UK hauliers carrying perishable goods being forced to sit in long queues to cross into Europe.
Bad weather, Easter holidays and P&O Ferries routes being suspended have led to congestion around the port. The government said traffic management measures were under regular review.
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has reported that some of its members, who have lorries carrying fresh meat, have been stranded for one to two days or possibly longer due to the current delays.
Nick Allen of the BMPA said that members are “furious that there doesn’t seem to be any process in place to prioritise fresh produce.”
He said: “When delays like this happen the product’s shelf life, and its value, is reduced. 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.
“We are told to expect disruption well into next week. With Easter weekend approaching, which is a very busy time for exporting fresh meat, this is extremely bad timing.
Allen stated that there were a number of issues that have caused “a perfect storm” at Dover. The P&O situation, bad weather, the Easter vacation and the crucial Border IT system failure this weekend are all causing issues with the export process.
He added: “Lorry drivers are complaining that the communication is really poor and that no one on the ground seems to know what is happening. These drivers are running out of food and water, and access to facilities is poor. We have been in touch with Defra but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any sign of any prioritisation for fresh produce being put in place.”
The BMPA is calling on the authorities to review the situation as a matter of urgency and take appropriate action to keep the flow of perishable food moving.
A ‘shameful’ situation
The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) said that it was not hearing directly from members about delays to their products, though some may be stuck on groupage loads. It added that several of its members have been re-routed to the Felixstowe and Harwich crossings.
A spokesperson for AIMS, Tony Goodger said: “Once again we are seeing the M20 being jammed up with lorries unable to cross the channel. Surely trucks should be diverted to Sevington Inland Border Facility where loads could be prioritised to enable more perishable products to cross first.”
Goodger added that the Association was also alarmed to hear reports that tourists crossing the channel may be being given priority over perishable goods.
He said: “We cannot overstate the value of loads from our members enough. Not just in financial terms but in trade relation terms and we fear that unless a suitable system can be quickly found then we may lose business.
“Finally, it is shameful that idling chilled and frozen goods vehicles are having to run their fridge units on white diesel when, just a few weeks ago, they could have run them on red diesel, thereby saving some money at a time of increased costs.”
AIMS would like to see the government suspend the requirement to fill auxiliary tanks with white diesel for fridge/freezer units and return to permitted use of red diesel and to make “better use” of the Sevington Inland Border Post.