Food and freight industry groups have warned of difficulties in getting fresh food on the shelves in the event of a hard Brexit.
Food sent to Ireland from ports like Calais in France or Zeebrugge in Belgium would take longer to get here if not routed through Britain, via the so-called “landbridge”.
But avoiding Britain might be the best option if Brexit results in new British customs checks that cause substantial delays. That means fresh produce would be more likely to go off while in transit, or would be less fresh on arrival on the shelves.
Aidan Flynn, general manager of the Freight Transport Association Ireland, said that in the event of a hard Brexit, there will be “serious impact in terms of shelf life” for any product relying on the landbridge.
He said fresh meat, poultry and vegetables were among the products being transported across the landbridge at the moment. Mr Flynn said it would take almost twice as long to go around Britain via sea. He added that products already coming directly to Ireland via Cherbourg, including fruit and vegetables from Spain or Portugal, would be unaffected, however.
Paul Kelly, director of food industry representative group Food Drink Ireland, said that time is “of huge value” when it comes to perishable products.
“The reason for the attractiveness of the landbridge is time and cost. From Dublin, the French coast can be reached in 10-and-a-half hours. The alternative routes by sea are almost double that,” he said.
Speaking at an event yesterday, Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said the extreme snow in the spring had shown just how fragile the supply of fresh food can be.
“There was a run on bread…everybody realised at that point that there isn’t an endless supply out the back in a supermarket.”
She said British retailers will find it more difficult to get fresh food on the shelves if Brexit causes delays in processing imports.