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Shoppers warned against panic-buying food as ports close

Written by: Emma Lunn
Supermarket customers have been accused of panic-buying amid fears of a Christmas food shortage.

The rush to the shops was triggered by France banning freight and travel from the UK. While goods can enter from France, few haulage firms will be willing to send trucks and drivers across to the UK without a guarantee they can return to the EU in a timely manner.

In addition, a growing number of EU countries have implemented travel bans to and from the UK after it was revealed that a highly-infectious mutant strain of Covid-19 was spreading in the South East.

Sainsbury’s has warned that gaps may start to appear on shelves within days, with shortages on products including lettuce, salad and cauliflowers.
Boris Johnson is chairing a crisis Cobra meeting of senior ministers and officials this afternoon to address the issue.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The closure of France to UK traffic, including accompanied freight poses difficulties for UK capacity to import and export key goods during the busy Christmas period.

“This is a key supply route for fresh produce at this time of year: the channel crossings see 10,000 trucks passing daily during peak periods such as in the run up to Christmas.

“We urge the UK government and the EU to find a pragmatic solution to this as soon as possible, to prevent disruption for consumers. Retailers have stocked up on goods ahead of Christmas which should prevent immediate problems. However, any prolonged closure of the French border would be a problem as the UK enters the final weeks before the transition ends on 31st December.”

Atul Bhakta, CEO of logistics company One World Express, said: “If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the logistics sector is incredibly resilient. Despite the various challenges over the previous 12 months, supply chains have continued to function and firms have delivered a reliable service to businesses and consumers alike, ensuring goods have still got from A to B without any major incidents. And I have every confidence that the industry will weather this latest storm.

“So, people must remain calm and refrain from panic buying produce. While this will be an unsettling time for many, we ought to be confident that the logistics sector will continue to keep businesses running as usual and ensure no one is left wanting over the Christmas period.”

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