Food federations warn possible delays and shortages due to new border checks

(Photo by HOLLIE ADAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Food and Drink Federation, which represents more than 1,000 businesses, has sent special guidance to members, stated recent reports as stringent import checks came into force on Saturday (1) as a result of Britain’s departure from the European Union a year ago. 

The federation has reportedly warned that the trade barriers risk “blocking deliveries from EU suppliers altogether, at least temporarily” raising alarms over possible delays or shortages of food in the coming days.

UK exports to the bloc were down by 40 to 60 per cent by value in the first three months of last year, when controls on goods moving into the EU were imposed, and a similar pattern could emerge with imports, the federation reportedly said.

The situation “presents a real risk which could disrupt the operation of UK supply chains where a critically important ingredient is delayed or fails to arrive”, said the federation, Mail reported.

More than £230 billion of products – amounting to more than a quarter of Britain’s food supplies – are imported from the EU each year. However, post Jan 1, the extra red tape implies that EU shipments to the UK need to have full customs declarations and proof that goods should be tariff-free. 

Businesses will reportedly have to complete the right paperwork at least four hours before the goods can arrive, or they risk being turned back. Animal and plant-based products will also have to have statements of origin certificates.

Industry is abuzz with concerns over the preparedness of EU businesses – particularly smaller ones – warning that a lack of awareness, incorrect paperwork and time-consuming extra checks at borders could have a significant impact on imports.

Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, representing frozen and chilled food suppliers, also reported to have said that the new rules “will make it harder for the smallest businesses to sell their goods”.

“Some will choose not to do that anymore. So we could see those products no longer being stocked in restaurants and supermarkets,” Brennan said.

Earlier, British Frozen Food Federation reportedly had also warned that January could be a “fraught” month for its members, with the potential for delays at ports.

“We are concerned that not enough planning has been done to ensure the new requirements are understood by everyone in the food supply chain,” said BFF chief executive Richard Harrow.