The banning of hauliers carrying freight across the English Channel amid fears over the new coronavirus strain by France could result in shortages of lettuce, broccoli and citrus fruit during the festive seasons, the grocery giant Sainsbury’s has warned.
Even though all of the ingredients that are required for a traditional Christmas lunch were already present in the UK and are available to the consumers, the supermarket said that during the coming days, some fresh produce imported from Europe could be off the shelves.
“If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year,” a spokesperson for the company said.
“We hope the UK and French governments can come to a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports.”
Efforts to restart freight were on and talks between the transport secretary of the UK and France were already discussing the issue, said the UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps.
“The supply chain is pretty robust, in as much as you get variations in supply all the time. For the most part, people won’t notice it,” Shapps said when asked if consumers would face shortages in supermarkets.
“All products for the Great British Christmas lunch are already in the country and we have plenty of these. We are also sourcing everything we can from the UK and looking into alternative transport for product sourced from Europe,” Sainsbury’s said.
The French ban on travellers is not meant to hit container freight, Shapps said in an effort to downplay the problem.
But lorry drivers from Europe from entering in the first place could be deterred because of long queues of lorries in Kent and the additional 48 hour ban could make matters worse potentially resulting shortages of produce from across the Channel, warned hauliers.
“We are anticipating some 17,000 vehicles coming into Kent to make the crossing over the next couple of days”, said Roger Gough, the leader of Kent county council, said in the run-up to Brexit.
The disruption could cause problems with fresh food supply this week, said the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, Richard Burnett.
“With it being so close to Christmas, we are looking at 48 hours at this point in time in terms of the restrictions, we are likely to see Operation Stack building in terms of numbers of vehicles on the UK side,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“And that might be a deterrent for EU hauliers to want to come so close to Christmas and end up being stranded here, that’s part of the challenge that we are facing today.”
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)