New post-Brexit border controls will jeopardise food supply chain and increase food prices, warns UK Cold Chain Federation 

The Cold Chain Federation (CCF) has written to Defra Secretary Steve Barclay to issue an alert that the government’s proposed Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), planned for live roll out on 30 April 2024, will jeopardise the UK’s food supply chain and increase food prices for consumers.

Its letter warns that the government’s plan for how it will implement full border checks for imports from the EU poses a major challenge to the movement of temperature-controlled plants and fresh produce, as well as many types of meat and fish.

The CCF, which is the voice of the UK temperature-controlled logistics industry, asks the minister to ensure government takes a series of actions urgently to help mitigate the impacts for the food supply chain and consumers, and to minimise the threat to the UK’s food security.

CCF chief executive Phil Pluck said: “From the end of April, many EU food businesses supplying the UK are going to have a substantial new administrative burden and considerably higher costs to send temperature-controlled products here.

”We can expect many to stop exporting to the UK at all, particularly small artisan producers. Those that do continue may see up to £1,000 added to the cost of one multi-consignment lorry entering the UK and will likely need to pass on a significant portion of those costs with higher prices.

“We can also expect cost increases and food wastage as a result of unnecessary delays, disruption and paperwork confusion, because cold chain operators and their EU customers are still waiting for clarity in a number of areas about what they will actually need to do.

”We are still waiting to hear from government about how some key parts of the new process will work, and we have serious concerns about the readiness of the Border Control Posts. The UK’s cold chain operators have identified strong solutions to many of the foreseeable problems, we are asking government to work with us urgently to limit the damage.”

The federation’s letter to the Defra Secretary details a number of concerns, including:

  • The lack of assurances that different food consignments will be successfully kept at each’s correct temperatures for safety and quality when they are held at Border Control Posts.
  • UK cold chain operators provide a rapid service, often through a ‘groupage’ approach, which means that EU food businesses in France or The Netherlands can place an order at 9am and the food can be safely transported to the UK that same day. The new Border Target Operating Model 24-hour pre-notification requirement includes no plan for this crucial same-day service.
  • With strong concerns about the readiness and suitability of Border Control Post facilities, the federation is calling for swift expansion of the ‘trusted trader pilot’ to allow goods to be fully secured during transit and warehousing by allowing proven operators to operate their own secure inland control points.

The letter also warns that the requirement for more taxing paperwork and inspections for many temperature-controlled food consignments will broaden the problems that are already being experienced.

Pluck added: “We are already seeing too many temperature-controlled consignments from the EU administratively rejected because they have an unqualified signature. Ahead of the checking and inspection requirement scope widening in April we are asking the Minister to tell us how the issuing of Export Health Certificates will continue to support round-the-clock haulage operations so that food supplies into the UK are not disrupted.”