Disruptions in the meat industry

Rob ShelleyCast your mind back to summer 2015. ‘Operation Stack’ saw 6,000 trucks jammed in a 35-mile queue on the M20 in Kent for many hours each day. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) estimated the daily cost to be £750,000 as HGVs idled and the UK supply chain suffered. 

In November, 800 migrants stormed the Eurotunnel Port in Calais, causing extensive delays, while in January, 50 migrants boarded a P&O ferry at Calais, while it was unloading. Each year our freight industry uses 2.5 million vehicles to transport £200bn-worth of trade between Calais and Dover, so you can begin to appreciate the financial impact of the problem.

Last summer’s disruption in Calais is estimated to have cost £250m a day in lost trade to the UK, when factoring time-critical goods and spoiled food. The UK meat trade, in particular, has experienced significant disruption. Delayed lamb shipments to France (which takes around half of UK lamb exports), played a part in GB lamb prices plummeting to their lowest level in six years last August, with sheep meat exports down 30%.

An agreement signed by the UK and France in August introduced new measures to alleviate the crisis, including a new Control and Command Centre at Calais. Yet as recently as last week, 2,000 migrants stormed the Channel Tunnel, while queuing lorries run the gauntlet of illegal migrants daily. Only recently, a planned new rail freight service between the Pyrenees and the Port of Calais, which would have fast-tracked goods between the UK and Spain, has been shelved over migrant security fears.

While Dover Straits remains a key crossing to France, some exporters are re-routing via longer, more expensive routes. Evidence of change can be seen with Brittany Ferries, which operates the Portsmouth/Le Havre route. It saw a 28% rise in freight units last summer.

With this fast-changing situation, meat importers will need responsive professional logistics providers to minimise disruption through this vital cross_Channel trade route.

Want more stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up for our FREE email newsletter

My Account


Most read


For the third year running, a grain fed cow won the World Steak Challenge. What do you think produces the best beef?