The Chief Executive of the UK's Fresh Produce Consortium, Nigel Jenny, spoke frankly to the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee on Thursday (6 July) urging them to heed the consortium's warnings concerning the proposed border strategy.
Referencing the governments TOM (Target Operating Model) Jenney remarked: "Well, they've missed the first target, because the target was to actually respond to the industry with guidance by the end of last month. This hasn't materialised and won't materialise for weeks, which puts huge pressure on the industry in terms of being able to prepare for the hard delivery dates that the government is currently suggesting.
"We are operating in a sector which grows and distributes highly perishable, highly sensitive products as quickly and efficiently as possible ," he continued. "So frankly, from my industry's point of view, we believe the current proposed strategy will fundamentally compromise our industry's least cost, highly efficient supply chain from Europe, without a doubt.
"We don't manufacture widgets, we don't keep them in a UK warehouse for six months, hoping someone's going to buy them. Our produce is literally harvested, packed, and delivered within hours, not days.
"As such, the TOM provides some huge challenges for our sector in terms of compromising that just -in -time least cost to maintain both the quality of the products, but also the cost of the products," Jenney explained.
"We are extremely concerned that the current proposed government border strategy which adopts government managed border control points (BCPs) , are frankly highly inefficient.
"We believe the current proposed strategy will fundamentally compromise our industry's least cost highly efficient supply chain from Europe which will have considerable and wide ranging impacts.
"We will proactively, and we have for years now, offered solutions to the current BCP model, including adoption of control points. They are facilities which are managed by our industry, or our commercial partners.
"A Government managed BCP adds, brutally, no value for my industry," he continued.
"One of the things that we proposed several years ago but which didn't happen at that time, is that we offered government the opportunity to use our industries facilities to carry out these inspections. This wasn't an option that was considered appropriate at that time.
"We also suggested it would be wise to allow responsible businesses within the industry to be trained and accredited to complete official inspections. Because do you want a few hundred official inspectors managing your border security, or do you want thousands of people managing your border security?
"And the best part is that you wouldn't have to pay them because the industry pays for those people. It's incredibly disheartening that this system will not be available, assuming the 31st of January date is the go live date.
"Our industry will be forced to either use BCPs or control points but still wait for an official inspection by an official officer. Which is so frustrating, because we've had years to manage and plan the processes, yet everything is last minute, and it appears to be poorly thought through.
"The industry, ultimately, is going to have to pick up the pieces and I'll remind you all again today that, with the costs we envisage the industry having to incur, I have to sadly say that we simply cannot absorb those costs. They will instead be passed on to hard pressed consumers in a very difficult environment at this moment in time.
"We have no choice. Our margins just simply do not allow us to do anything else."
The House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee plans to release its report by the conclusion of this year to summarize their findings and recommendations.
Read the FPC Target Operating Model – Border Strategy Consultation here.