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UK Food Supply Chain at Risk: New Border Controls Set to Spike Prices and Disrupt Imports

The Cold Chain Federation (CCF) has issued a stark warning to Defra Secretary Steve Barclay, expressing grave concerns over the government's forthcoming Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), slated for implementation on 30 April 2024.

Jenney BTOM

The federation cautions that this new model threatens to disrupt the UK's food supply chain significantly and could lead to increased food prices for consumers.

In a detailed letter, the CCF outlined the challenges posed by the government's strategy to enforce full border checks on imports from the EU. This move is anticipated to severely impact the movement of temperature-controlled plants, fresh produce, and various meats and fish.

The CCF, representing the UK's temperature-controlled logistics industry, urgently calls on the minister to take immediate action to mitigate these impacts and safeguard the nation's food security.

Phil Pluck, CCF's Chief Executive, highlighted the impending difficulties for EU food businesses exporting to the UK, stating, "From the end of April, many EU food businesses supplying the UK will face a substantial new administrative burden and considerably higher costs. This could lead to many ceasing exports to the UK, especially small artisan producers, with those continuing potentially facing up to £1,000 in additional costs per multi-consignment lorry."

Pluck also warned of cost increases and food wastage due to delays, disruption, and confusion over paperwork, as clarity on several key process aspects remains elusive.

Echoing these concerns, Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), voiced his frustration over the government's decision to reclassify many fruit and vegetable consignments from the EU as "medium risk" for BTOM purposes from 31 October, a move expected to add £200 million to import costs.

In a number of recent interviews with national media, Jenney stressed the direct impact on consumers and the potential threat to small businesses' viability. He suggested that allowing businesses to conduct their own official inspections could significantly reduce costs associated with extra paperwork and delays.

The UK's reliance on EU imports for a substantial portion of its fruit and vegetable supply underscores the significance of these changes. In 2022, the UK imported £3 billion worth of vegetables and £4.5 billion worth of fruit from the EU. The requirement for Phytosanitary Certificates for a large portion of these imports marks a major shift in policy.

Steve Cock, a director at The Customs House Ltd, criticised the requirement for Phytosanitary Certificates for a significant proportion of fruit and veg from the EU as "utter madness," highlighting the inflationary impact on businesses dealing with smaller, mixed consignments.

As the UK prepares to implement its new border operating procedures in April, with physical inspections becoming standard for a wide range of commodities, the industry braces for the impact. The reclassification of certain items as medium to high risk from October further compounds concerns, with FPC estimating an additional £200 million in costs.

Despite government assurances that the cost to consumers will be minimal, industry leaders fear the checks, delays, and the introduction of the Common User Charge (CUC) will impose a significant financial burden on the industry.

Jenney's call for urgent clarity and a more effective management of controls underscores the industry's plea for government reconsideration to prevent these substantial costs from impacting consumers and businesses alike.


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