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Ross Arnold said trucks carrying fresh fish from the EU have been arriving in the UK up to two days behind schedule, leaving his staff scrambling to sell the catch before its shelf life expires. More than four weeks after the UK’s Brexit transition period came to an end, manufacturers across Britain continue to suffer heavily due to the new rules on paperwork.
Six in 10 firms have experienced “significant disruption” since the new rules kicked in on January 1, according to manufacturers’ union Make UK.
And just over 60 per cent have reported upheavals to their supply chains, either importing from or exporting to the European Union.
Mr Arnold, who co-owns The Stickleback Fish Company in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, with his wife Elizabeth, has warned of drastic consequences for British businesses if the “extremely chaotic” situation at ports is not eased soon.
He told Express.co.uk: “We are not buying tins of beans. When something sits in a truck for 46 hours longer than it used to it’s a problem for us.
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“We have two trucks a week of bass and bream that come from Greece and Turkey and that’s a four-day truck anyway.
“Twice a week since January 1 that’s been delayed by an average of 30 hours. It puts pressure on the freshness of the product and it puts us under a lot of pressure in terms of selling it.
“At the moment we are seeing delays at Calais and Folkestone.
“The freighters are telling us that what the customs officials want is changing daily and weekly.”
The Stickleback Fish Company offers a guarantee to its customers, which include restaurants, schools and hospitals, that the fish has three to five days’ shelf life when it is sold.
Given the fact that the farmed fish has to be consumed within 10 days of being harvested, the firm is left with a very tight window in which to sell the goods.
Mr Arnold explained: “You’re obviously left with product which is very difficult to sell. You try and discount and move product through the chain but it’s not always possible.
“That two days is a third of the additional life we’ve got for the product which is obviously a lot.
“Waste has been extremely high. It’s certainly thousands of pounds per week at the moment.”
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This week Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, gave an upbeat assessment of the situation at Channel ports, despite growing calls for the Government to step in to speed up the movement of lorries.
Addressing the cross-party transport select committee, Mr Shapps claimed fears of Brexit-related disruption at ports had been unfounded.
He insisted that goods were flowing “at near-normal levels”.
He said: “You will have heard talk, including worst-case scenario projections and mentioned many times in newspapers of queues of 20, 30, 40 miles, none of which we saw as a result of the end of the transition period.”
However, Mr Arnold struck a more sombre tone, saying he believed the delays his company has been affected by were “part of Brexit” and would be here to stay.
He said one driver delivering to his factory was held up for seven hours at a Dutch border due to not having the correct paperwork.
Stickleback’s managing director warned the Covid restrictions on both sides of the Channel and have meant “volumes are tiny” in terms of the number of trucks passing through compared to pre-lockdown levels.
And he feared the delays will be made even worse when the tourism industries on both sides of the water reopen and the demand for produce is driven up.
He said: “It was always going to be extremely chaotic from January 1. At the moment, four weeks in, I’m not seeing any improvement in that.
“I am very concerned about the flow of fresh goods in and out of Europe at the moment.
“The supply chain is intrinsically linked so I think these problems are here to stay and I think where these problems are insurmountable, we will need to find alternative supply.”
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