The draft TOM is a major concern to the UK’s fresh produce supply chain. On this basis the UK's Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) and several proactive members have recently met national media contacts to share their concerns.
Extracts from the recent Guardian article below highlight the widespread fears of the sector.
This discussion included several proactive FPC members including Morgan Cargo, ICL and PML, who all shared similar concerns of behalf of the sector, although they may not be named in the article.
Taken from the Guardian article of 15 July 2023:
The government’s proposals for its new post-Brexit border strategy, beginning this autumn, will require all goods arriving from the EU that are subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls – including fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and plant – to pass through ports or government-operated facilities such as its new inland border control post at Sevington in Kent.
In addition, under the government’s border target operating model (TOM) proposals, a charge of between £20 and £43 – known as the “common user charge” – will be levied on each consignment of food or plant imports arriving in the UK from January, whether or not they need to be checked.
The border proposals state that this charge will be payable on “each consignment which enters through Port of Dover and Eurotunnel that is eligible for SPS checks”.
“The charge would apply to all eligible consignments, whether or not they are selected for a BCP (border control post) inspection.”
Companies that transport and distribute fresh produce from overseas across Britain, say this will reduce choice and increase cost.
Concerns about the government’s border plans have prompted UK logistics firms in the food supply chain to jointly ring the alarm.
Several of them that also have goods inspection facilities want to take part in the government’s “assured operator” trial – which would test using such commercially run sites to carry out EU produce checks – but all say they are waiting for details on how to apply.
The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), which claims to speak for 70% of the UK’s fresh produce supply chain – including businesses that produce, package, move and sell fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and plants – has previously warned that the UK’s post-Brexit border strategy risks further pushing up food prices.
Members are also concerned that small and medium-sized businesses, including market traders and restaurants bringing in items such as Italian mozzarella or French charcuterie, will be disproportionately affected by the common user charge.
Smaller companies, importing much lower quantities of goods across the Channel than large supermarkets and wholesalers, have traditionally cut their costs by transporting different types of items from multiple suppliers on one truck, a practice known as “groupage”. The FPC says that each truck carries on average 10 consignments.
However, under the border proposals, traders will be required to pay an import fee for each consignment, and a lorry could be stopped if just one supplier failed to provide the correct paperwork, therefore delaying the whole load.
“The market traders, the speciality shops on the high street, the guys that are ordering one pallet containing 50 items, or two pallets in a groupage truck, they are going to get nailed £2,000 a shipment. But supermarkets and value buyers might be able to buy huge truckloads of just one item, like potatoes, and only pay once for that shipment,” says Storme Valentine, the general manager at Morgan Cargo.
“Obviously it is going to impact our economy and our choices. Small businesses, restaurants, market traders are not going to be able to get supplies unless they look for alternate sources.”
Transport companies like PML say that, unlike the government facility at Sevington, they have the space to allow non-conforming consignments to be unloaded and stored at their premises, allowing the rest of the load to continue its way.
They fear that the reliance on government-operated checkpoints at the introduction of the new border strategy will be an “absolute disaster”, with MD Mike Parr predicting that long delays at government BCPs for import controls – critical for perishable goods – could lead to fresh gaps on supermarket shelves, while the extra expense and administrative burden could see some exporters stop sending products to the UK.
“Speaking to customers and suppliers from the EU, they have reached a point where the don’t really want to supply the UK any more,” Parr says. “They are saying they can’t do this any more because of the additional costs.”
The government asked industry to share its view on how its new border plan would affect groupage movement, but fresh produce suppliers say their suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.
The Guardian understands the government is considering responses received from businesses, and the final border strategy is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
A government spokesperson said: “Growing the economy and supporting small businesses are priorities for this government.”
They added: “The innovative risk-based approach of the target operating model exempts many goods from new paperwork or checks, meaning these can be imported using groupage models as happens today. Where certification and checks may be required, the trusted trader assurance schemes and groupage facilitations will help to reduce burdens and cost for many businesses and facilitate the movement of goods.”