The move comes as British supermarket chains and other companies struggle to deal with the effects of Sunday’s closure of major freight transport between the south of England and France, triggered by the British government’s warning that a new, more contagious variant of Covid-19 was out of control in London and the surrounding areas.
The leading British supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury’s warned earlier this week that they would start running out of some fresh items such as lettuce, lettuce leaves, broccoli, cauliflower and citrus fruits within a few days if the port chaos was not resolved soon. The trade association responsible for cold distribution also warned that an extended blockade would cause “significant problems” for supply chains in January.
A Tesco spokesman told CNN Business Wednesday that the company had nothing to add to its previous statement.
The backlog of trucks being built around Dover will take days to clear, a British Prime Minister said on Wednesday.
“I hope HGV [Heavy Goods Vehicles] will cross the canal this morning, and then the position will gradually start to improve, but I think it will take time, “said British Housing Minister Robert Jenrick. Speaking to Sky News, he said he does not deny that delays have caused problems for the supply chain, but argued that there is “no material shortage of food.”
No more fresh produce
The British retail consortium, which represents over 170 major UK retailers plus thousands of smaller companies, said it was “essential” that trucks start driving again quickly now that the border had reopened.
“Before the backlog is cleared and the supply chains return to normal, we expect problems with the supply of certain fresh goods,” says Andrew Opie, head of food and sustainability at BRC.
The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said it could take until the new year for the problems to be resolved. “This means that we are likely to see a reduction in the availability of certain fresh vegetables and fruits on certain shelves from next week. We will also see a potentially significant disruption of the flow of ingredients to the UK,” said Ian Wright, the federation’s executive director.
The shipping crisis comes at the worst moment for retailers as they try to meet the highest holiday needs and build additional stocks if Britain crashes out of the EU’s single market and customs union within days without a post – Brexit trade agreement in place.
Lufthansa said it was investigating whether additional special cargo flights could be offered in the next few days.
“We are also checking to see if a regular flight can be possible,” the spokesman said. “This could be with a cargo ship, but we are also investigating whether we can only use passenger aircraft for freight transport.”
The German flag bearer took a similar step at the beginning of the pandemic as early as March when it launched “a flight lift for the whole of Germany” to ensure that goods were delivered throughout the country. The move provoked the Cold War’s operation of American and British aircraft to keep West Berlin supplied with food and other items during a Soviet blockade of 1948 and 1949.
– Rob North, Sharon Braithwaite and Fanny Bobille contributed to this article.