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The UK's refusal to prioritise fresh meat at ports puts industry at risk

02 November 2020

The UK government has not prioritised the quick movement of fresh meat at shipping ports, putting the UK meat industry at risk of losing vital export orders.

The £8.7 billion trade in meat, the bulk of which currently flows seamlessly to and from the EU and keeps the just-in-time food supply chain moving, is about to run into a huge brick wall.

This is because the Government has declined to prioritise fresh meat products (and indeed most fresh food of any description) through UK ports.

The rule goes something like this: if a lorry is carrying anything other than fresh or live seafood products or day-old chicks, it will just have to join the queue behind other lorries carrying everything from toasters to tissues. No account is taken of the perishability of the goods on board.

Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association explains: “Our EU customers - the big supermarket chains and food service companies – are not concerned with how good or bad our customs system is, they just need to know we can deliver what they want, on time.

“Every extra hour that fresh meat is delayed in transit causes problems further on in the supply chain which devalues it. If expected delivery times extend beyond a certain point, it must be frozen which devalues it further and turns it into a very different product that isn’t what our customers are demanding and which they could buy from anywhere else in the world.

“If fresh meat exports do not get priority over products like toasters (which don’t devalue every hour they’re delayed) it will undermine the reputation of British meat and remove a big competitive advantage British meat processors have over other countries, which is the ability to deliver fresh chilled meat to EU customers in a timely manner”.

Mr Allen added: “If meat exports are delayed, customers will simply start sourcing their meat from elsewhere. So, we are calling on Government to implement a graduated system to prioritise goods for export, with perishable food like sausages and fresh meat given a higher priority”.

The new 27 acre lorry park being built in the Kent countryside serves as a conspicuous reminder of the massive disruption to trade that is about to happen on 1 January. Rather than "Keep Business Moving" as the latest Government marketing campaign trumpets, the new customs system will cause border chaos and standstills just at the point that British companies most need it to work.



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