Brexit Checks Could Inflate UK Food Import Costs by Up to 60%, Warn Importers

Chronic worker shortages in the food and farming sector as a result of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic could push food prices even higher and lead to more food having to be imported, MPs have warned.

UK food importers are sounding the alarm over newly introduced post-Brexit checks, warning of potential cost increases of up to 60%, which could result in higher prices for consumers and pose existential threats to some businesses.

Following five previous delays, the UK government implemented physical checks on animal and plant products entering from the EU on Tuesday, along with the introduction of a common user charge (CUC) of up to £145 per consignment. However, importers and haulage companies have expressed dismay over the lack of clarity regarding the definition of a “consignment,” with many assuming the cap applied per lorry. In reality, vehicles transporting various products from different locations could face significantly higher charges.

Haulage companies carrying meat and dairy products from Eastern European countries have voiced concerns, indicating that the new charges could amount to hundreds of pounds per lorry, significantly increasing operational costs.

One of the UK’s largest importers of Eastern European goods, responsible for sending over 70 lorries weekly and supplying 1,000 businesses, emphasized the need for clarity from the government on the definition of a consignment. The company highlighted that some trucks would now incur an additional £1,500 in costs, representing a 60% increase from the usual transportation expenses.

Adriana Zalewska from Kin Global Distribution, a small importer, expressed apprehension over the impact of increased fees on food prices in the UK, foreseeing challenges for small businesses along the supply chain.

Piotr Liczycki, managing director of Polish company Eljot Transport, anticipates significant additional costs ranging from £300 to £2,000 per lorry, potentially adding millions to operational expenses annually.

The introduction of the CUC, aimed at covering the costs of checks and operations at the government-run border control facility in Kent, is anticipated to affect lorries carrying mixed loads of products from different suppliers. Such vehicles will be required to pay multiples of £145 for each type of product, significantly increasing financial burdens on importers.

While the government emphasizes the importance of border checks in protecting the UK’s food supply chain and natural environment, industry experts and businesses are urging for a reduction in import costs to prevent lasting damage to food supply chains. Calls for clarity and support from the government persist as businesses navigate the challenges posed by Brexit-related regulations and charges.

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Brexit Checks Could Inflate UK Food Import Costs by Up to 60%, Warn Importers