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Supply Chain Confidence Shattered

Food and drink importers are warning of spiralling costs and product shortages as the next phase of Brexit border controls came into force on April 30th.

After a series of false starts, products imported from the EU are now subject to risk-based identity and physical checks at the UK border as part of a new phytosanitary regime.

Businesses also face having to pay a common user charge (CUC) on products arriving via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel of up to £29 per type of good.

The UK Government has previously played down the impact on prices of the new regime, estimating that new requirements will add an extra £330m to the cost of importing goods. However independent analysis carried out for ITV News has suggested the cost of the new border controls will be almost ten times higher at £2.9bn.

Foods such as meat, dairy and fresh produce are set to be especially impacted by the new checks and additional costs.

The Fresh Produce Consortium has predicted the new regime will add £200m in costs across the fresh produce supply chain, driving up consumer prices.

“This is simply not a manageable cost for our members,” said Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium. “These exorbitant charges imposed by our own government represent a direct tax on businesses. It’s a move that will undoubtedly shatter supply chain confidence and is already encouraging EU exporters to reconsider their commitment to supply the UK market”.

The Cold Chain Federation has previously warned of an increase in food waste as a result of unnecessary border delays, disruption and paperwork confusion.

The CUC is considered a particular threat to imports of speciality products such as continental meats and cheeses which are often imported via groupage services whereby multiple batches of products from different suppliers are transported on the same vehicle.

The combined cost of new administrative charges, including health certificates for medium or high risk products, is set to add hundreds of pounds to the cost of sending a single consignment, with smaller EU-based food producers expected to reconsider whether it’s viable to supply the UK market as a result.

Adriana Zalewska, from the small importer Kin Global Distribution, told The Guardian its lorries could often carry shipments with several types of meat, dairy and other fresh produce, with the new fees adding upwards of £1,300 a shipment.

“This means that food prices in the UK will have to rise, as costs will be passed through the supply chains. We are concerned this will directly and immediately hit small businesses, such as shops, local distributors and import businesses, forcing them out of the market,” she told the paper.

Checks on UK exports to the EU have been in place since the start of 2021, however food moving the other way has until this week been able to flow freely after the government’s border target operating model (BTOM) was postponed five times in the space of three years.


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