Northern Ireland news

North's big supermarkets say 'no immediate issues' with stock caused by travel ban

Lorries parked at Folkestone, Kent, after the Port of Dover was closed. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire

THE BODY representing the north's big supermarkets has said there are "no immediate issues" with stock as a result of restrictions on trade between Britain and France.

Sainsbury's yesterday warned that salad leaves and citrus fruits could be missing from supermarket shelves as a result of France's ban on British freight hauliers.

The supermarket giant said food supplies could be affected but assured customers that crucial Christmas dinner supplies are available.

British 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.

It came as the south-east of England grapples with a new variant of coronavirus that could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain.

More than 40 countries have banned flights from the UK due to a mutant variant of coronavirus spreading through the country, but it is the French decision to also ban hauliers which has caused the greatest concern.

A possible solution could be mass testing of HGV drivers, while the BBC reported that plans to reopen the border will come into effect from Wednesday, citing French Europe Minister Clement Beaune.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said the "borders really need to be running pretty much freely from tomorrow to assure us that there won't be any disruption".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we're talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time."

A Sainsbury's spokesman said yesterday if France kept its freight restrictions in place there may be shortages of lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit, all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year.

Alex Veitch, general manager at Logistics UK - formerly known as the Freight Transport Association - said he is "genuinely not worried" about food shortages, and urged people not to panic-buy.

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said retailers had been working "so that customers don’t have to".

"The vast majority of goods for Christmas are already here in Northern Ireland or on their way from Great Britain so there are no immediate issues and we have more stock than normal due to Christmas and Brexit," he said.

"Christmas dinner is safe as it is mostly made up of produce from NI and GB including seasonal vegetables. If this can be resolved quickly, then disruption should be minimal and we continue to work with government and watch the situation."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news