As chaos on the UK border continues, Lufthansa transports fresh food to England

AN Lufthansa (DLAKY) The spokesman told CNN Business that the freighter Boeing 777 was transporting 80 tons of perishables from Frankfurt to Doncaster-Sheffield airport in northern England. The airline said it is working with a freight forwarder to supply food from Egypt and elsewhere to supermarkets, such as Tesco (TSCDY), Sainsbury’s (JSAIY) and Aldi.

The move comes at a time when UK supermarket chains and other companies are struggling to cope with the impact of the shutdown of vital freight transport arteries between southern England and France on Sunday, due to the British government’s warning that a new, more infectious variant of Covid-19 was out of circulation. control in and around London.

France and the UK agreed on Tuesday to reopen the ferry ports and the Eurotunnel rail connection, but at least 3,000 trucks remained stranded on Wednesday morning with their drivers waiting for the Covid-19 negative tests they need to travel. Only two trucks arrived in Calais from the English port of Dover, a Port of Calais spokesman told CNN. France’s National Road Transport Federation said nothing was happening in Dover.

Leading UK supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, warned earlier this week that they would start running out of some fresh items, such as lettuce, leaf salad, broccoli, cauliflower and citrus in a few days if the chaos at the port was not. resolved soon. The industry association responsible for cold distribution also warned that a prolonged block would cause “significant problems” for supply chains in January.

A Tesco spokesman told CNN Business on Wednesday that the company had nothing to add to the previous statement.

The backlog of trucks piling up around Dover will take days to resolve, a UK government minister said on Wednesday.

“I hope HGVs [Heavy Goods Vehicles] we’ll cross the channel this morning and the position will start to improve gradually, but I think it will take time, ”said UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick. Speaking to Sky News, he said he doesn’t dispute that the delays caused problems for the supply chain, but stated that “there is no food shortage”.

Running out of fresh produce

The British Retail Consortium, which represents more than 170 major UK retailers and thousands of smaller companies, said it was “essential” for trucks to move quickly again, now that the border has reopened

“Until the buildup is resolved and supply chains are back to normal, we anticipate problems with the availability of some fresh produce,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at BRC.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents the manufacturers, said it may take until the new year for the problems to be resolved. “This means that we will probably see reduced availability on the shelves of some fresh vegetables and fruits locally starting next week. We will also see a significant disruption in the flow of ingredients to the UK,” said Ian Wright, of the federation’s chief executive.

Covid-19's isolation gives Britain a taste of Brexit chaos 'without a deal'

The freight crisis comes at the worst moment for retail companies, as they try to meet peak holiday demand and build up additional stocks in case Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union within days without a post-Brexit trade agreement in force.

Other manufacturers were also hit. Toyota (TM) closed its factories in the UK and France before the holiday. Honda (HMC) was forced to close a factory in the UK for three days earlier this month due to logistical problems.

Lufthansa said it is examining whether additional special cargo flights could be offered in the coming days.

“We are also checking whether a regular flight is possible,” said the spokesman. “This could be with a freighter, but we are also examining whether we could use passenger aircraft only for cargo flights.”

The German flag carrier took a similar step at the start of the pandemic in March, when it launched “an airlift across Germany” to ensure that the products were supplied across the country. The move evoked the Cold War operation by American and British planes to keep West Berlin stocked with food and other essentials during a Soviet blockade in 1948 and 1949.

– Rob North, Sharon Braithwaite and Fanny Bobille contributed to this article.