Perishable seafood should be fast-tracked to deal with congestion at the Channel ports, according to the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation.
The SSPO is calling for Operation Brock, the emergency measures drawn up to deal with hold-ups after the end of the Brexit transition period, to be fully implemented ahead of 1 January. Cross-Channel traffic is still affected by a backlog following the imposition of a travel ban last week by the French government, in response to a new strain of Covid-19 which emerged in the UK.
Freight traffic is moving again after France agreed that drivers who have tested negative for Covid-19 can enter the country, but it is taking time to clear the lorries – up to 3,000 or more – impacted by the closure. A Covid testing facility for hauliers has been set up at Larkhall, near Glasgow, for drivers picking up loads in Scotland.
Part of Operation Brock is already in place, but not the measures that would prioritise seafood and day-old chicks, allowing these products to be fast-tracked through the Channel crossing points.
Tavish Scott, the Chief Executive of the SSPO, said: “We have had nine days of challenges with queues of lorries trying to get across the Channel. That is before the extra paperwork and bureaucratic checks which will be needed after Friday.
“It is imperative that the UK Government acts now to head off the further problems which are likely to take effect from the end of this week. Ministers have to make it clear that they want the prioritisation of seafood and other time-sensitive products to begin as soon as possible. The time for that arrangement is now.
“If this is not done, then Scotland’s fish farmers are going to face a second transport crisis. They have already lost millions having been shut out of the European market in the run-up to Christmas. They cannot afford to go through that again. That is why the UK Government has to act now and make it clear that prioritising seafood consignments has to happen without delay.”
The decision will be made by the Kent Resilience Forum, which includes representatives of the UK government, as well as local authorities and the emergency services.