As the threat of shortages of food and other vital supplies loomed large due to a continuation of chaos at the UK-French border, Germany’s Lufthansa operated a special cargo flight to England for delivering fruit and vegetables on Wednesday.
A Boeing 777 freighter carrying 80 tons of perishable goods flew off from Frankfurt on Wednesday morning and landed at Doncaster-Sheffield airport within one and half hours, said a Lufthansa spokesperson. The airline is also coordinating with freight forwarders for supplying of produce from Egypt, Spain and other countries.
The closure on Sunday of vital freight arteries between southern England and France prompted UK supermarkets and other businesses to issue warnings of a shortage. This closure of the border between UK and France was triggered by the British government’s warning that a new, more infectious variant of Covid-19 was had gone out of control in London and the surrounding areas.
A decision to reopen ferry ports and the Eurotunnel rail link was taken on late Tuesday by France and the United Kingdom. However there were at least 3,000 trucks that were still stranded as on Wednesday morning as the drivers of the lorries waited to get negative Covid-19 tests – an essential for travelling. A spokesperson for the Calais Port told the media that only two trucks had arrived in Calais from the English port of Dover.
Earlier this week, warnings that if the port chaos wasn’t resolved soon, they would begin to run out of some fresh items such as lettuce, salad leaves, broccoli, cauliflower and citrus fruits within days were issued by leading UK supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
An extended blockade would cause “significant problems” for supply chains in January, also warned the industry association responsible for cold distribution.
A UK government minister said on Wednesday that the backlog of trucks building up around Dover will take days to clear.
“I hope HGVs [Heavy Goods Vehicles] will be crossing the Channel this morning, and so the position will start to gradually improve, but I think it will take time,” UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said. Speaking to Sky News, he said he does not dispute that delays have caused issues for the supply chain, but asserted that there is “no material shortage of food.”
It was “essential” that trucks should start moving again soon since the border had reopened, said the British Retail Consortium, an association that represents over 170 major UK retailers as well as thousands of smaller businesses.
“Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC.
The issue of whether additional special cargo flights could be offered during the next few days is being considered by it, Lufthansa said.
“We are also checking if a regular flight might be possible,” the spokesperson said. “This could be with a freighter, but we are also examining if we could use passenger aircraft for freight flights only.”
(Adapted from CNN.com)