Whilst the situation at Calais gets increasingly worse, with a reported 6000 immigrants seeking the opportunity to cross to the United Kingdom, the effect this is having on the fresh produce and chilled food chain from European sources continues to be a substantial problem. Chris Sturman, CEO of Food Storage and Distribution Federation explains:

‘As the sole trade body which represents and supports the interests of the entire food logistics industry, we are having regular conversations with our members regarding the added costs and cargo loss claims they’re contending with, as well as the physical threats and damage to vehicles that drivers are enduring on a daily basis as they pass thought the Port of Calais.

‘Transport companies are being forced to find alternative routes. We’ve had members who have made the decision to stop receiving any goods through Calais – a decision they have made because of the disruption caused when vehicles arrive at their inland distribution and packing centres, and illegal immigrants are found in the backs of the vehicles. Some travelling on top of food products, but in any case, food products are then being rejected, and the cargos of damaged goods have to be sorted at considerable added cost, to ensure there is no risk that contaminated product enters the UK food chain. There is no other option.

‘Companies are also having to spend time and money on more complex, secure vehicles with features such as hidden doors and lockable areas, adding significant costs to their business.

‘This issue is not going away any time soon. With the threat of the end of the Touquet agreement and migrants looking at other opportunities to enter the UK, there is a lot of uncertainty and the industry has to adapt alongside the increasingly risky, dangerous and desperate attempts by the migrants to get on board their vehicles.  It is an ongoing process which we cannot see an end to at this point, and FSDF is working with the Home Office, UK Border Force, Food Standards Agency, Fresh Produce Consortium and other industry bodies to find solutions and avoid further UK food supply chain disruption. FSDF is pleased to be part of a Food standards Agency initiative to produce a guide to help all those in the food supply chain to manage food safety and quality, and ensure consumer safety and confidence.

‘As an industry, we are very grateful for all the hard work from UK Border Force and we appreciate they have been working hard on finding solutions to this problem. As Home Secretary, our new Prime Minister Theresa May was very involved with this issue and her Ministerial team have had many meetings with the French Interior Minister to develop solutions to the Calais problems. We sincerely hope that this high level of understanding ensures that the problems continue to receive a high level of Government focus and, as a result, a united, cohesive plan is developed to protect drivers, vehicles and food products and to avoid the situation to get any worse. The Vehicle Accreditation Scheme has helped but will not totally deal with the problem, until all vehicles and drivers are required to hit that high standard – collaboration between shippers, receivers and operators is a key factor to help achieve this result ‘

The FSDF is hosting the 2016 Transfrigoroute International (TI) Annual General Meeting and Conference at The Royal Garden Hotel in the heart of Kensington, London on the 13th and 14th October 2016. The theme ‘Keep Cool, Drive Growth – The critical role of temperature-controlled transport in the European supply chain’ will address issues experienced by the European refrigerated transport sector, including those experienced in Calais and the post-Brexit impact on the industry.