Two of Britain’s largest supermarkets have warned that gaps may appear on the shelves in a few days due to France’s ban on carrying goods across the Channel from the UK.
The French move comes amid fears of a new, more contagious spread of the corona virus, which is widespread in London and the southeastern UK.
Tesco and Sainsbury’s have said there will be a shortage of products including lettuce, cauliflower and citrus fruit if transport links with the continent are not restored quickly.
However, supermarkets said they had “plenty” of food available in stores for Christmas.
Their warning echoed a report by the Food and Beverage Federation (FDF), which said fresh food items face “more serious disruptions” than Christmas.
CBI Deputy Director General Joshua Hardy tweeted that the lifting of the freight ban was “essential”: “Lock + Brexit + extra boundary blocks unmanageable equation.”
France does not ban lorries from traveling into Britain, but what is worrying is that the Halleys would not want to enter the country if they could not return home.
A Tesco spokesman said: “A lot of food is available in stores for Christmas and will encourage all customers to shop casually.
“We have been building stocks of our core products ahead of the Christmas peak and have been working closely with our passengers and suppliers to continue delivering products to our stores.
“If the current disruption continues, the supply for some fresh produce such as lettuce, cauliflower and citrus fruit may be reduced later this week, but we do not expect any problems in getting these lines today or tomorrow.
“We do everything we can to reduce the impact on our customers.”
Sainsbury’s said: “All the preparations for the Great British Christmas Lunch are already in the country and we have plenty of these.
“We are sourcing everything we can from the UK and looking at alternative shipments for the product sourced from Europe.
“If nothing changes, in the coming days we will start to see gaps in lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruits – all of which are imported from the continent this year.
“We hope the UK and French governments can come to a mutually acceptable solution, which gives priority to the immediate shipment of production and other food to ports.”
FDF chief executive Ian Wright said Sunday night Prohibition of freight traffic From the UK to France “UK Christmas has the potential to cause serious disruption to new food items – and UK food and beverage exports”.
He added: “Continental trucks would not want to travel here if there was a real fear of being marooned.
“The government must urgently ask the French government to exempt the goods from its ban.”
Andrew O’Brien, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Federation, said the situation was “causing difficulties for the UK’s ability to import and export key items during the busy Christmas season”.
“Although goods can enter from France, some tow companies will be willing to send trucks and drivers to the UK without a guarantee that they will be able to return to the EU in a timely manner,” he said.
“This is the main distribution route for new production at this time of year: Channel crossings see 10,000 lorries pass through daily peak seasons running until Christmas.
“We urge the UK Government and the European Union to find a practical solution to this problem as soon as possible.
“Retailers are stockpiling goods before Christmas, which should prevent immediate problems.
“However, the prolonged closure of the French border will be an issue as the UK enters the final weeks before the change ends on December 31.”
Logistics UK – formerly Freight Transport Association – “is very concerned about the welfare of drivers traveling from the UK to France at this time and is urgently seeking additional information for our members”.
“Driving health and safety is our primary concern and it is essential that they continue to be recognized as key workers and, if necessary, be given access to testing, as a priority to ensure the continued movement of goods to and from France,” the organization said.
“Shoppers should not panic about buying – retailers will make every effort to ensure that there is stock in the system, including new products, and we need to remember that there is still access to the UK for incoming traffic.
“We are in close contact with the UK Government to ensure the availability of new products throughout Christmas and New Year.”