Salad leaves and citrus fruits could be missing from supermarket shelves as a result of restrictions on UK-France trade, Sainsbury’s has warned. It comes as there are already reports of panic buying as the news has spooked consumers.
Jim Pickard Tweeted a news line from Reuters, which might offer a way out of this very worrying situation, wrote: “France aims to establish Europe-wide sanitary protocol measures “in the coming hours” to allow the resumption of traffic flows with the United Kingdom, transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Monday.”
The supermarket Sainsbury’s giant said France’s ban on freight hauliers from the UK could affect food supplies but assured customers that crucial Christmas dinner supplies are available and already in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the ban on accompanied freight was “slightly surprising”.
Thousands of lorries that were meant to travel across the English Channel on Monday have been told to stay away from Kent ports.
HGVs turning up at Dover this morning have been greeted with glowing signs saying “French borders closed” and are being turned away.
It comes as the south-east of England grapples with a new variant of coronavirus that could be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “All products for the Great British Christmas lunch are already in the country and we have plenty of these.
“If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that “probably about 20%” of goods going into and out of the country passes through Kent.
He told Sky News: “But it’s not the mainstay. Most goods actually come in and out by unaccompanied containers and those will continue to flow.”
Asked about what the shortages could be, Mr Shapps said: “Obviously we don’t want these links to be closed for too long, but it’s not unusual for them to be closed and disrupted.
“In the short term it’s not a specific problem. But of course the key is to get it resolved.”
While unaccompanied freight is exempt from the 48-hour ban, goods that would usually be transported on lorries driven onto ferries by drivers face being unable to cross the Channel to France.
This will mean that the vast majority of trade out of the port of Dover could be held up at the border.
In 2019, more than 1,235,000 self-propelled vehicles left the UK through the Kent port, according to Government statistics.
This equated to more than 97% of outbound movements through Dover.
Meanwhile, unaccompanied road units such as trailers as well as units such as containers that are lifted onto ferries accounted for less than 3%.
Shoppers began queueing at supermarkets from 5.50am this morning as people rushed to buy groceries before Christmas amid a French ban on British hauliers.
Journalist Rachel Wearmouth Tweeted: “Sky reporting the govt is “actively monitoring” how much food supply is left on shelves. “Potentially very serious”, “Couple of weeks’.” Why would govt brief this? It runs the risk of triggering panic buying.”