'Border strategy will harm suppliers and consumers'


11 July 2023
TOM is last minute, and poorly thought through, says FPC's Chief Exec.

THE Chief Executive of the UK's Fresh Produce Consortium, Nigel Jenny, spoke frankly to the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee recently, urging it to heed the consortium's warnings concerning the proposed border strategy.

Referencing the government's TOM (Target Operating Model) he said: "They've missed the first target, because the target was to actually respond to the industry with guidance by the end of last month. This hasn't materialised and won't materialise for weeks, which puts huge pressure on the industry in terms of being able to prepare for the hard delivery dates that the government is currently suggesting.

"We are operating in a sector which grows and distributes highly perishable, highly sensitive products as quickly and efficiently as possible, so frankly, from my industry's point of view, we believe the current proposed strategy will fundamentally compromise our industry's least cost, highly-efficient supply chain from Europe, without a doubt.

"We don't manufacture widgets, we don't keep them in a UK warehouse for six months, hoping someone's going to buy them. Our produce is literally harvested, packed, and delivered within hours, not days."

He said the TOM provides huge challenges for the fresh produce sector to maintain quality and cost of products.

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"We are extremely concerned that the current proposed government border strategy which adopts government-managed border control points (BCPs) , are frankly highly inefficient. We believe the current proposed strategy will fundamentally compromise our industry's least cost highly efficient supply chain from Europe which will have considerable and wide ranging impacts," he said.

A government-managed BCP adds no value to the industry, and he reiterated the FPC's former advice for the government to allow responsible businesses within the industry to be trained and accredited to complete official inspections. 

"The best part is that you wouldn't have to pay them because the industry pays for those people. It's incredibly disheartening that this system will not be available, assuming the January 31st  date is the go live date. Our industry will be forced to either use BCPs or control points but still wait for an official inspection by an official officer, which is so frustrating, because we've had years to manage and plan the processes, yet everything is last minute, and it appears to be poorly thought through.

"The industry, ultimately, is going to have to pick up the pieces and I'll remind you all again today that, with the costs we envisage the industry having to incur, I have to sadly say that we simply cannot absorb those costs. They will instead be passed on to hard-pressed consumers in a very difficult environment at this moment in time.

"We have no choice. Our margins just simply do not allow us to do anything else."

The House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee plans to release a report by the end of the year summarising its findings and recommendations.

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