Latest Blow To Fresh Produce Imports

The latest announcement regarding the introduction of new fixed charges on imports of fresh produce and plants is yet another blow to the already fragile fresh produce sector which has already been hit by so many additional costs and challenges due to the post-Brexit border control plans.

The common user charge (CUC) is effectively another business tax that will be applied to each commodity line in a Common Health Entry Document (CHED). Although fees are capped – £145 for every consignment arriving via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel –this is another expense for importers and retailers to bear, which will of course be reflected in further delays at the ports and another price hike for essential food items.

What is particularly frustrating is that the fee is being levied for all fresh produce / plants goods passing through Dover or Folkestone – even if they don’t pass through the government controlled inspection post at Sevington.

PML Seafrigo has its own 24/7 border control post at Lympne, which is the closest point of entry to the Port of Dover (closer than Sevington), we have a dedicated transport and logistics hub for imported goods and yet our customers will still be charged the CUC even though they will not be using the Sevington facility. The government is effectively asking businesses such as ours to collect taxes on their behalf. And the fact that this fee will be reviewed and updated annually by Defra is itself worrying, it could easily be increased in 12 months’ time. 

Once again, the consumer will ultimately pay the price not just due to the inflated cost of these goods but also, via a reduced availability of certain food items. Post-Brexit, there is a growing reluctance to export fresh produce to the UK because it is now fraught with bureaucratic policies and red tape and this latest additional cost is just further ammunition for that argument.

All this at a time when we were under the impression that the government was encouraging the nation to consume more fresh produce as part of the drive towards a healthier lifestyle. This will ensure the exact opposite result.