Border closure could lead to gaps on supermarket shelves

UK supermarkets have warned that gaps may start to appear on shelves within days after France closed its borders to UK freight traffic.

The blanket ban on arrivals from the UK came on Sunday amid concern at the spread of a new variant of coronavirus. Several other countries have also banned arrivals from the UK.

Around 10,000 lorries a day usually travel between Dover and Calais at peak periods such as Christmas, largely bringing in fresh produce.

France has not banned lorries from travelling into the UK from France, but there is a risk that European hauliers will not want to enter the country if they cannot return home.

Sainsbury’s said that everything needed for Christmas dinner is already in the country.

“We are also sourcing everything we can from the UK and looking into alternative transport for product sourced from Europe,” a spokesman for the supermarket said.

But he added: “If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit — all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.”

Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright said the ban on freight traffic from the UK to France had the “potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies — and exports of UK food and drink”.

He urged the UK government to “persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban” as a matter of urgency.

France’s transport minister has said that measures are being planned to “ensure that movement from the UK can resume”.