Meat processors want priority for fresh produce at Dover

Long delays for HGV lorries on the M20 approaching Dover in Kent are causing issues for UK food exports.

Industry bodies are calling for lorries with perishable goods such as lamb and fish to bypass the queues.

Lorries are repeatedly being delayed for one to two days and often then have to stop and rest for a further nine hours upon arrival in France, according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).

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Delays have been an issue at Dover for about four weeks, reportedly caused by a combination of issues including adverse weather, problems with the customs IT system, and knock-on impacts from problems at P&O Ferries.

Nick Allen, BMPA chief executive, told Radio 4’s Farming Today on Tuesday (12 April) that while products are not being completely ruined, they are losing shelf life, and some retailers are saying they are going to pay a bit less for it and are getting fed up with the lack of reliability.

If these delays are not resolved there is a risk of frustrating hauliers and losing customers abroad as they consider alternative markets, according to Mr Allen.

Government action

Defra secretary George Eustice told the BBC that a prioritisation system for some perishable goods had been looked at, but it was decided it was not realistic to achieve at the moment.

However, the BMPA reasons that with export health certificates, the contents of lorries are already known, and it would just need a bit more willingness from government to achieve a priority system.

Fresh produce

The impact of delays on exports of fruit and vegetables is reportedly fairly limited currently, as only small volumes are exported, compared to import volumes.