lorries queue calais one use

Lorries carrying livestock, shellfish and fresh produce are to be given priority in crossing the English Channel when emergency M20 queuing procedure ‘Operation Stack’ is next implemented, the government has announced. 

As part of a range of measures declared on Tuesday (4 August) by transport minister Lord Ahmad, lorries carrying limited-life fresh food are among a selection of exempted vehicles which will be routed directly to the Channel Tunnel or the Port of Dover.

Operation Stack has been implemented on more than 20 days since the start of the summer as a response to disruption caused by migrants in Calais and industrial action - causing the closure of the Channel Tunnel and sea links from Dover, and leading to traffic chaos in Kent. 

Lord Ahmad said the plan was a “viable short-term solution to the disruption residents and industry in the M20 corridor have been experiencing”. Manston Airfield will also be temporarily used to provide additional capacity for cross-Channel freight whenever Operation Stack is in place.

The announcement comes as fresh produce suppliers warned the UK could face fruit and veg shortages from the autumn unless a long-term solution can be found to the Calais migrant crisis.

Speaking to The Grocer this week, Fresh Produce Consortium CEO Nigel Jenney said in excess of £10m-worth of fresh produce had been wasted since the crisis began

“We are a net importer of fresh produce so if we move into autumn and we have the same issues things could get worse in terms of supplies,” he said. “We are robustly pressing the government to find a long-term solution to protect vehicles and their drivers.”

Jenney also warned that migrants were flexible and could target lorries before they arrive in Calais once a promised fence around the port was completed, adding that goods had to be destroyed whenever migrants climbed onto trucks. “A trailer is not a coach, and it’s full of produce in open containers, so from a food safety point of view the only option is to destroy it and stop it entering the food chain,” he explained.

This comes as Scottish seafood exporters have warned of “major disruption” to shellfish exports to mainland Europe. Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead held urgent talks with processors and transporters this week on the matter, while exporter DR Collin revealed it had lost £100,000-worth of business due to the crisis.