Food firms fear long term problems
Sturgeon adds to calls for solution to Calais migrant crisis
Lorries began moving normally through the Channel Tunnel from Saturday evening, but the authorities on both sides acknowledged that the disruption could flare up again. David Cameron admitted that it was likely to be repeated throughout the summer.
Businesses in Scotland have expressed concern that supplies of fresh food have been ruined and that continental buyers may switch supplier to ensure deliveries.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell urging action to resolve the difficulties Scottish exporters have been facing at the Channel crossings.
Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “For many Scots, the problems at the Channel crossings might seem like a remote concern. But we fear that there may be a knock-on impact on Scottish suppliers and therefore many Scottish local economies.
“We understand that these are complex problems but we have to see the UK Government stretching every fibre to solve this problem for Scottish exporters. While this problem is particularly acute for firms that supply perishable or seasonable produce – such as fruit farmers or fish suppliers – long term disruption will no doubt harm customer-supplier relationships for many firms selling overseas.”
Nicola Sturgeon added: “I remain particularly concerned about the impact on the Scottish seafood sector. Seafood from Scotland is the UK’s biggest food export, worth more than £600 million annually.
“The delays, damage and uncertainty caused by the lack of safe and timeous passage through the Tunnel is costing the sector millions of pounds every week and placing future markets in jeopardy. Seafood exports are almost five times as important to Scotland as to the UK as a whole, therefore this impact is disproportionately severe in Scotland.
“That is why I have asked the Prime Minister once again for firm and urgent action to be taken by the UK Government, working as necessary with the French authorities, to secure safe passage for seafood products. In particular, practical steps are needed to give priority to the transit of perishable good and I am urging the Prime Minister to consider his options. The Scottish Government stands ready to assist in working with the sector to implement alternative arrangements in practice.”
Ben Murray, managing director of Keltic Seafare a Dingwall-based Scottish seafood supplier who has faced disruption said: “Keltic Seafare supplies many of Britain and Europe’s finest restaurants with hand-dived scallops, creel caught langoustines, lobsters and seasonal products, and it also supplies supermarkets and wholesalers, here and on the Continent.
“We’re a Highland success story and it is therefore frustrating to see our prospects undermined by circumstances so far from our control.”
Last week he warned that the situation for his business and similar operators was becoming increasingly serious.
“Our produce may be consistently outstanding but our customers must receive it on time if they are to remain customers,” he said.