France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours on Sunday night.
Scottish salmon and French processing facilities have been caught in the perfect storm of COVID and Brexit. Over the weekend, many countries including France, which initiated a freight ban, closed its borders to the United Kingdom, as British Health Secretary warned that a new strain of the coronavirus was “out of control”.
The closure is due to end on Tuesday at 11pm, UK-time.
In a bid to help the end-of-year push to get amounts of fish, including salmon, to the continent in time for Christmas, Frédéric Cuvillier, mayor of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Europe’s leading seafood processing centre, told RTL that the only chance they have was to use driverless trucks.
“This would involve loading driverless trucks in Dover, crossing them on ferries, then picking them up with local drivers and getting them to Boulogne-sur-Mer,” he said. Cuvillier said that concerned about the economic consequences of the block for the city.
LBC reported that Highways England confirmed that there were 900 lorries on the M20 on Monday evening.
Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation CEO Tavish Scott told SalmonBusiness in a statement that the suspension of trade routes to France has “been extremely disruptive for Scottish salmon exports to Europe, particularly at such an important trading time of the year”.
“We are hearing reports of trucks stuck in the queue at Kent and of trucks turning around and coming back to Scotland with their loads The options for the companies are to try to find alternative routes to market, alternative buyers for the fish or even work with customers who might be able to find their own transport solutions. Time is precious when dealing with a high quality, fresh product.
“Looking ahead, companies may have to replan harvesting schedules and look for other buyers if the situation or the backed up congestion continues,” he added.
On Monday, it was reported that the French government was to establish a protocol over the freight ban.
On Tuesday morning, Sky News wrote that the talks were ongoing with France on the subject of reopening full trade and transport across the Channel, and that “details of a plan could be announced as early as today”.