Northern Ireland faces food shortages in ‘major crisis’

Northern Ireland’s hospitals and schools risk running out of food when post-Brexit Irish Sea trade arrangements are fully implemented, claims minister.

A grace period that limits the level of red tape required to move retail food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland runs out at the end of March.

Here’s Perishable Movements Limited Sales Director Nick Finbow with some top tips for importers and exporters to Northern Ireland to ensure they are red-tape compliant once the exemption expires.

If your business needs more guidance get in touch with our team

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Once that exemption expires supermarkets will have to comply with more rigorous animal health certification processes under the terms of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

With depleted supermarket shelves already in evidence in Northern Ireland with the lighter-touch trade controls, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots warned of a “major crisis” once the grace period ends.

“It was made very clear to us by the suppliers to both hospitals and schools that if the current arrangement for supermarkets isn’t extended in a few months’ time that they will not be able to supply our hospitals and schools with food,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.

“That is a major crisis and I have raised this with (senior Cabinet minister) Michael Gove.

“Seriously, are we going to have a situation where our hospitals and schools are not able to feed the children at school, they’re not able to feed their patients?

“That is an outrageous situation that we in Northern Ireland have been put in as a result of the protocol negotiated between the UK Government and the European Union.”

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the region has remained in the single market for goods. That requires strict health checks on animal-based food products being shipped from Great Britain.

Some products are prohibited from entering Northern Ireland at all under single market rules.

Sausages and other chilled meats, which are on that banned list, have been granted a six-month grace period to enable their import from GB to continue until June using temporary Export Health Certificates.

Northern Ireland also applies EU customs rules at its ports, requiring customs declarations on goods moving from GB.

Baffling Brexit rules threaten export chaos, Gove is warned

Business groups tell ministers to sort out bureaucratic mess caused by EU trade deal.

Perishable Movements Limited senior management team remain ready and able to provide advice to government ministers as needed and to importers struggling to navigate the red tape of the post-Brexit trade deal.

Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.
Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.

Ministers must restart trade negotiations with Brussels immediately to sort out the “baffling” array of post-Brexit rules and regulations that now threaten much of the UK’s export trade to the EU, leading business groups have said.

Amid mounting anger among UK firms at cross-border friction they were told would not exist, British manufacturing and trade organisations met Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in an emergency session on Thursday to discuss problems resulting from the deal struck by Boris Johnson with the EU before Christmas.

The prime minister had hailed what he claimed was a “zero-tariff” and “zero-quotas” deal that would allow free and simple access to the single market. Less than a month on, however, Britain’s EU departure appears to be anything but pain-free.Advertisement

One leading figure involved in the talks with Gove described the new rule book as a “complete shitshow”. Another said Gove seemed “very concerned” at hearing reports of problems, after a week in which Marks & Spencer was among leading companies to warn that more bureaucracy would increase costs. The source added: “He [Gove] seemed to realise the full gravity of the situation that is unfolding and about to get worse.”

Gove admitted on Friday that there would be “significant additional disruption” at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in the coming weeks.

In the first week after the UK finally left both the single market and customs union, the parcels firm DPD suspended some of its services, bookseller Waterstones halted sales to customers in the EU and UK fishermen warned they would not be able to sell their fresh produce into EU markets because of delays at borders.

There were also problems with consignments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as new border checks caught many businesses unawares. Luxury food store Fortnum & Mason also told customers on its website: “We are temporarily unable to deliver to Northern Ireland or countries in the European Union”, while Debenhams has temporarily shut its online business in Ireland.

Some of the problems are being blamed on a rushed deal, and others on the sheer complexity of arrangements including “rules of origin”, some of which have not been finally determined. Only goods made up largely of parts that originate in the UK qualify as tariff-free.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland business organisation Manufacturing NI, said: “The reason why the UK and EU originally agreed that there would be an implementation period of 11 months was so that people could get their heads around what was needed and assure their businesses were compliant. But we didn’t have that. We had seven days before everyone had to be ready, and one of those was Christmas Day.

“There is a big problem with GB businesses being unaware of their new responsibilities. We have the triple whammy here of Covid, Christmas and new customs rules arriving all at once without any time to adjust.”

Johnson assured Northern Ireland business owners in November 2019 that they would have “unfettered access” to the rest of the UK. “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind,” he said. If anyone told them they needed to fill in forms, “tell them to ring up the PM and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The government was also facing pressure over its Brexit deal from the SNP. Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, called on the UK government to “pay compensation to Scotland”, claiming a “multibillion compensation package” was needed to mitigate the costs of Brexit in Scotland.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said much still needed to be negotiated between the UK and EU. “Industry welcomed the trade agreement that avoided the catastrophe of no-deal, as tariffs and quotas would have been a disaster for exporters. However, this is only a starting point, as there are still substantial issues that need ironing out, with many months, if not years, of tough negotiations ahead.

“There are customs experts with 30 years’ experience who are baffled by what the new regulations mean, let alone small- and medium-sized businesses who have never had to deal with the kind of paperwork that is now required. The great fear is that for many it will prove too much and they will simply choose not to export to the EU.”

He also raised fears about the UK car industry, which could be adversely affected by tariffs if EU rules relating to the origins of components used in car manufacture cannot be met. “Having built up seamless and complex supply chains over decades, the automotive sector in the UK is facing a jolt to its systems that places its very future under threat,” he added. “While there is no suggestion multinationals will close plants overnight, we have already seen decisions to build new models placed elsewhere. As those models that have been built in the UK for many years come to the end of their life, we are likely to see a slow puncture for the sector of investment drifting away.”

Dominic Goudie head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation said talks needed to re-start between the UK Brussels.

“Where problems emerge there will need to be further conversations,” he said. “The trade deal provides the means to do that. It is a question of whether is the will to do so” (after so many months of talks.”

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said there were problems that could grow over coming weeks and months.

“The new import/export formalities are proving problematic for many companies. The lack of obvious queues at the border disguises the fact that many trucks are stuck in depots, unable to head to the ports due to their clients failing to provide the necessary documentation and information.”

Source: The Guardian

Kent lorry chaos: Seafood rots by the roadside as gridlock predicted to last days

The gridlock in Kent will “take days to clear”, officials warned last night amid fears that fresh produce caught up in the delays will perish.

Fish was among the products causing the greatest concern to exporters, who warned it would have to be discarded. “The window wherein companies would be able to salvage anything from the last couple of days is now closed for premium seafood, which has been perishing by the roadside since Sunday night,” Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, said. “Millions of pounds have been lost, much of it by small companies that were depending on this trade for survival.”

Fears were also growing last night that supermarket shelves would be emptied in the coming days, despite an agreement by the French and British to resume freight movements from this morning.

“The real issue we face is what happens in the next day or so,” Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told MPs on the business, energy and industrial strategy committee.

“If we do not see the empty trucks, which have already delivered to warehouses and stores, getting back over the Channel, they will not be able to pick up the next consignment of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad vegetables.

“What we’ve been told by members is that unless those trucks can start travelling again and go back to Spain and Portugal and other parts of Europe, we will have problems with fresh produce from December 27. What we need is for those trucks to move in the next 24 hours if we are to avoid seeing problems on our shelves.”

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, said that perishable produce such as seafood must be prioritised if hauliers are able to start moving again today. “We still await detail of the agreement, but if freight starts moving tomorrow, as we must hope it will, the plan to prioritise perishable produce such as seafood should be activated immediately,” she said.

Officials in Paris announced last night that an agreement on both sides of the Channel would allow for a limited resumption of travel, including “accompanied freight” from today. Only people with negative coronavirus test results will be permitted to travel.

A Turkish lorry driver has breakfast by the M20 yesterday

A Turkish lorry driver has breakfast by the M20 yesterday

A statement from the French prime minister’s office said lateral flow tests, which provide a result within 20 minutes, would be authorised providing they were able to detect the new strain of coronavirus.

Hundreds of soldiers will be deployed to a former airfield in Manston, Kent, to conduct the tests on up to 6,000 lorry drivers a day from this morning. Drivers who test positive will be told to isolate in hotels.

Businesses were hoping the gridlock in Kent would be cleared by Christmas, but many are already counting the cost of the 48-hour border shutdown. Nimisha Raja, founder of Nim’s Fruit Crisps, in Sittingbourne, said: “We were supposed to have eight tonnes of lemons coming in last week, that’s roughly 40,000 lemons.

“The delivery was organised well in advance of the Christmas shutdown, as we have an order going out mid-January, which requires at least two to three tonnes to fulfil.

An aerial view of Manston airport shows lines of lorries yesterday

An aerial view of Manston airport shows lines of lorries yesterdayWILLIAM EDWARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“Unfortunately, the order never got to us, initially because of a bank holiday in Spain and then the realisation that the double whammy of Covid-19 and Brexit would make it too time-consuming and too risky.”

DPI, based in Castle Donington in Leicestershire, manufactures and supplies illuminated displays for shops and the events industry. Sandra Wiggins, the company’s boss, said it ships six-metre-long crates of aluminium into the UK from the Netherlands from which it fashions lightboxes.

With its latest shipment delayed it will have to decide whether it should pay transit costs of £6,000 for a delivery of supplies that normally costs £1,800, and with no guarantee they will arrive.

Edward Naylor runs Naylor Industries, manufacturing pipes at facilities in Barnsley and Fife, employing 150 people. The pipes are used for carrying electricity cables into homes and telecommunications and power to motorway gantries and traffic lights.

It sources polyethylene from a company in Nantes in France and was told this week that because of the level of Covid-19 outbreaks in the UK its hauliers would not be leaving France. “Their message to us was we have got the stuff. We want to get it out to you. But we can’t. And we won’t be able to get it to you until things normalise,” Mr Naylor said.

Lorries are parked on the M20, with a contraflow system for cars

Lorries are parked on the M20, with a contraflow system for cars

However, his company had expected Brexit disruption and built up a larger than normal buffer of stocks through to February. “That is £1.5 million of stock sitting around on 20 to 30 trucks, tying up a not inconsiderable sum for a company our size,” he said. “We are in danger of becoming a plastic pipe manufacturer without any plastic. There is a sense of impending doom.”

Others are praying borders farther afield open soon to flights from the UK. “Our biggest problem has been air freight and the live lobsters being flown in from Canada,” Keith Smith of Caterfish, one of the biggest operators at the Birmingham Wholesale Market, said.

“When they heard our latest news [on the pandemic], Canada cancelled the flights. That is a big shame for the local Chinese community around here who like their live lobster.

Drivers feel like caged monkeys

Lorry drivers stuck at a disused airfield because of France’s freight ban complained that they felt like “caged monkeys” and “lab rabbits” (Charlie Parker writes).

Yesterday, as the sun set on Manston airport, Kent, the sound of hundreds of horns filled the air as drivers protested against the “blockade”. More than 1,500 heavy goods vehicles are trapped while the UK thrashes out plans to reopen the French border to trade.

Daniel Kroba, 36, from Poland, had dropped off luxury chocolates when the border shut on Sunday. He parked on a side street but police told him to drive to the airport, 30 minutes away. He was among 873 HGVs to arrive at the site before 6am. A further 650 vehicles were moved there from the M20.

The government was under pressure yesterday to turn the airport into a Covid testing site, but Mr Kroba said: “Why do we need a test? We are not lab rabbits. My family is waiting at home. Two little girls and my wife are sad.

“We’re just stuck in the middle of the fight between [the] UK and France, waiting. We don’t know if we can leave. We feel like rabbits and monkeys. It’s inhuman.”

Another Polish driver said: “The toilet here is broken and the next one is one kilometre walk away. It’s impossible to get home for Christmas.”

At 4pm hundreds of drivers held their hands down on their horns in protest.

The Department for Transport (DfT) told the press not to enter the airfield due to Tier 4 rules inside, although scores of drivers could be seen standing together with limited social distancing being observed.

There are 77 toilets and 66 urinals at Manston, the DfT said, and hot food was available. Several lorries left the airfield during the day. “The lorry drivers are free to leave the airport site at any time,” the DfT added.

Manston shut in 2014. It was an RAF base in the Battle of Britain and acted as a reception centre for Polish airmen.

Source: The Times

What does 2021 have in store for chartered air freight services?

There is no sign of any slow-down in the world of e-commerce, in fact quite the opposite. With so many consumers forced to adapt their shopping habits in response to the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19, it is likely that the changes that have been made will be long lasting.

While the world remains optimistic that the traditional retailers will be able to resume normal trading, the fact is that consumers will have become accustomed to revising their approach to purchasing and will be loathed to turn their back on the speedy digital shopping experience.

Perishable Movements limited, Sales director Nick Finbow.

In response to this, more and more aircraft are being reconfigured to carry cargo, rather than passengers and there has been a spike in the number of aircraft retrofit businesses able to undertake these specialist works. Since the production of the Boeing 747 has stopped in favour of the more fuel efficient, newer 777, so interest in the procurement of 777s to lease or buy has increased and while some of these may already be converted for cargo, we are likely to see more of these passenger aircraft configured to accommodate the exclusive handling of cargo.

The world of e-commerce traditionally focuses on a high proportion of goods being transported out of China into major European hubs. As a result, there is likely to be a predicted growth in the number of chartered air freight services transferring consignments out of these hubs and delivering them to local European markets. This means that once again, the pressure for space will be intensified on these flights.

Given the world’s growing mandate to address the need to slow down climate change, it is also likely that the future will bring new break throughs in fuel efficient engines which represent an improved carbon emissions proposition. For companies who trade on their ‘green’ credentials, this will enable them to potentially reconsider the use of chartered aircraft, which will in turn create further demand for space.

Impact of Brexit

Brexit has effectively provided a massive boost to the chartered air freight industry. Companies which specialise in perishable goods cannot risk being caught up in cross-border delays, delays which can have a devastating impact on time-sensitive produce. UK supermarkets and independents demand quality fresh produce, with a good shelf life. Goods which have been kept in transit when they should have been on the shelves will have a reduced shelf life triggering substantial losses to the producer.

For Perishable Movements Limited, the speed of transit associated with chartered aircraft services, supported by the company’s ability to handle product with an unbroken cold chain thanks to its unique relationship with Heathrow’s only dedicated chilled airside facility, has dictated an even stronger interest in chartered air freight in the wake of Brexit. Such is the demand that Perishable Movements Limited, has seized the initiative to charter its own aircraft to ensure the seamless and timely transfer of fresh produce.

Coronavirus crisis

The impact of the global pandemic continues to be felt in all sectors of industry and the chartered air freight sector is certainly not exempt. As countries begin to prepare for massive vaccination programmes the priority for many airlines is to captialise on the opportunity to carry the vaccines and as a result the race for space on chartered flights continues to heat up.

Competition for space in turn brings with it spiraling prices. Not only are logistics companies having to contend with the traditional seasonal variation in prices due to the influx of electronic products to satisfy the Christmas market, now the charters are becoming even more expensive due to the potential to charge a premium price for the transportation of PPE and vaccines.

Looking ahead

As the biggest independent perishable goods importer, Perishable Movements Limited continues to work hard to stay ahead of the curve. In addition to chartering its own twice-weekly flight from Nairobi to Heathrow, the company is watching the market to identify new opportunities to increase the number of flight rotations operated by Perishable Movements Limited and its partner network.

Having an in-house air charter service division, headed up by someone who has acted on both sides of the fence, working for an airline as well as an independent charter broker means that the company is well placed to access the very best air trade lanes. But as anyone in the logistics business will testify, these will be challenging times for the industry

Source: Fresh Talk Daily

British Retail Consortium say BREXIT main impact will be on imported fresh produce

Supermarkets have urged people not to stockpile food and lavatory rolls in response to fears that a no-deal Brexit would interrupt supplies.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said shops had been working to prevent shortages being caused by disruptions to cross-border trade. However, it said there could be an impact on supplies of some fresh fruit and vegetables because the UK relies heavily on imports from the EU in winter.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for all eventualities on January 1 — increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer-life products so there will be sufficient supply.

“While no amount of preparation by retailers can entirely prevent disruption there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual as the main impact will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.”

Other industries have spent years making plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit scenario. Perishable Movements Limited is one of the UK’s few fresh produce importers to have implemented their Brexit-ready plans to ensure their customers continue with little disruption to their supply chain. Measures include a purpose built temperature controlled facility in Spalding, complete with its own Border Control Post and regular chartered flights from East Africa to their facility at Heathrow.

Over the weekend, many media outlets reported on the number of people stockpiling goods ahead of a no-deal Brexit. The government is trying to allay fears by preparing measures to protect farming and other vulnerable sectors and to try to ensure deliveries of perishable goods and vital supplies are maintained.

But is this action too little too late?

UK government on farming:

The government is planning to help sheep farmers who would be among the worst hit by a no-deal Brexit.

The UK exports 30-40 per cent of its lamb and 90 per cent of that goes to the EU. Without a deal, an average tariff of 48 per cent would be imposed on sheep meat. This would kill the export market and result in an oversupply in the UK, driving down prices and potentially making many sheep farms unviable.


A Whitehall source said the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was “looking at specific interventions which will help to mitigate impacts for sheep farmers”.

The source pointed out that farmers in the EU would also face hardship if tariffs were imposed. The UK purchased more than 80 per cent of Denmark’s total exports of bacon and ham, worth £100 million, in 2018.

The National Sheep Association said the two support measures being discussed with Defra were a payment per breeding ewe or a top-up payment for each lamb sold.

The UK government on fish imports:


Trucks carrying fresh and live seafood will be given priority, enabling them to bypass queues in Kent. Lorries carrying day-old produce will get the same priority.

About 80 per cent of crab, lobster and other shellfish landed at UK ports is exported to the EU and is highly perishable.

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said the UK relied mainly on Iceland and Norway for cod and other white fish and these supplies were unlikely to be disrupted.

He said tariffs were only about 8 per cent on unprocessed fish so British exports were likely to maintain their market share because of their good reputation.

The UK government on travel:


A combination of coronavirus restrictions and Brexit means there is now the “real possibility” that Britons will be barred from travelling to the EU once the transition period ends, industry figures warn. The UK will become a “third nation” — with European borders closed to the majority of such countries at present.

Individual states can overrule the EU and permit access to foreigners. However, an estimated 2.5 million Britons face being unable to travel because their passports will be invalid. From January 1 documents will be required to have at least six months’ validity at the time of entry.

Tailbacks are likely on the M20 approach to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone. French authorities have been testing new software at their checkpoint in Kent, which has already caused delays.

Under EU regulations passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled are owed compensation of up to €600. The Department for Transport confirmed the rules will become enshrined in UK law at the end of the transition period.

The UK government on medical supplies:


Drug companies have been increasing stockpiles to reduce the risk of shortages. While there would be no tariffs on medicines, deliveries could be delayed by extra border checks. The government is arranging new routes into the UK, including rapid air freight for urgent supplies.

Perishable Movements Limited remain on hand to support the UK government with temperature controlled transport and storage of critical medical supplies ioncluding the Coronavirus vaccine.

Inside PML’s purpose built Border Control Post and DEFRA inspection area

Keeping imported products fresh, clearing customs, DEFRA compliance and a faster route to market, let’s head inside the world of expert logistics and freight movement company Perishable Movements Limited.

It’s been a busy few months, but we’re delighted with our new purpose build Border Control Post (BCP) and DEFRA inspection facility which will keep our clients’ produce fresher for longer and speed up its route to market.

Fully kitted out with scales, magnifying lamps and washing areas, the DEFRA inspection area is completely compliant with UK import customs regulations. It is also set-up to ensure that Covid-19 guidelines as outlined by Public Health England and the UK Government are fully implemented. This includes measures to ensure social distancing can be adhered to by DEFRA inspectors and PML employees. The facility is also cleaned down and sanitised after every inspection.

Inside the Spalding located main warehouse and customs bonded area, you will find a fully approved HM Customs Border Control Post. With the opening of this facility in early November 2020, PML Ltd are able to hold large amounts of uncleared product from the multiple containers and vehicles that arrive at the site throughout the day.

Within the temperature controlled facility, purpose-built equipment such as racking systems are installed to increase capacity for both product awaiting inspection and for product that has passed through the DEFRA inspection area. All produce is kept at the optimum temperature for fresh goods of between 2-4 °C. Any produce that has failed the DEFRA inspection process is stored separately, well away from the other products in the warehouse.

What happens to the produce that fails the DEFRA inspection? As part of PML’s commitment to environmental sustainability and pledge to reduce wastage, all produce that fails DEFRA inspection is taken to an Anaerobic Digestion plant where it is turned into methane to generate electricity.

Want to know how PML can help streamline your freight movement of fresh produce and speed up your perishable goods route to market?

Get in touch:

+44 (0)20 8893 2666 or quotations@pml-ltd.com