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Huge shopping queues form as supermarkets airlift in European supplies

Huge queues formed this morning as supermarkets airlifted in fruit and vegetables in an attempt to avoid shortages of fresh produce caused by the chaos at Dover.

The British Retail Consortium has warned that there could be a lack of some fresh goods until the backlog of trucks is cleared, while the Food and Drink Federation is warning of ‘significant disruption’.

Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested the border mayhem could last up to the New Year as the Army and NHS rush to test every driver in a queue of up to 6,000 lorries.

The requirement to test all drivers heading to Europe – a key condition of France agreeing to restart trade – is delaying the speed at which lorries can restock on the Continent before returning to Britain.

German airline Lufthansa yesterday flew in 80 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables into the UK for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Aldi as thousands of hauliers remained stranded at the Kent border.

The airlift, which included lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, citrus fruits, and strawberries, came as Tesco began rationing several items and experts warned the border reopening was not soon enough to prevent shortages.

The Lufthansa airlift was commissioned by Venus, an Egyptian fruit supplier that is used by UK supermarkets. It landed at Doncaster Sheffield Airport just before 2pm yesterday, Lufthansa told MailOnline. 

A long queue stretches around the Silverlink Retail Park in North Tyneside this morning as Xmas shoppers wait in line at 7am for the M&S food hall to open

The British Retail Consortium has warned that there could be a lack of some fresh goods until the backlog of trucks at Dover is cleared

The British Retail Consortium has warned that there could be a lack of some fresh goods until the backlog of trucks at Dover is cleared

Yesterday's Lufthansa airlift, which includes a large consignment of strawberries, comes as Tesco began rationing several items and experts warned today's border reopening did not come soon enough to prevent shortages

Yesterday’s Lufthansa airlift, which includes a large consignment of strawberries, comes as Tesco began rationing several items and experts warned today’s border reopening did not come soon enough to prevent shortages

Yesterday's airlift was commissioned by Venus, an Egyptian fruit supplier that is used by UK supermarkets. Pictured are some of the goods in the hold

Yesterday’s airlift was commissioned by Venus, an Egyptian fruit supplier that is used by UK supermarkets. Pictured are some of the goods in the hold 

The B777 Freighter (LH8352) landed into Doncaster Sheffield Airport at 1.50pm with lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruits on board for Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi and The Co-op

The B777 Freighter (LH8352) landed into Doncaster Sheffield Airport at 1.50pm with lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruits on board for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and The Co-op

Additional special cargo flights currently under examination, a spokesman for the German airline told MailOnline yesterday

Additional special cargo flights currently under examination, a spokesman for the German airline told MailOnline yesterday

Food and Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright told The Grocer: ‘News of an agreement to allow hauliers with a negative Covid test to enter France is very welcome progress.’

But he added: ‘Even working extremely quickly and with Calais possibly shut for Christmas Day, it is clear it could take until the new year to return to normal operations. Lorries will take time to return to their normal pattern of collection and delivery.

‘That means we are likely to see, locally, reduced on-shelf availability of some fresh vegetables and fruits, beginning next week. We will also see potential significant disruption to the flow of ingredients into the UK.’ 

MailOnline has contacted all the major supermarkets to ask if they had also put new restrictions in place.

Sainsbury’s, M&S, Morrisons and Aldi all said no, while Waitrose said had been restricting customers to two packs of toilet roll and three bags of flour for ‘a substantial period of time’. Lidl is yet to reply.

All supermarkets said they had plenty of stock.

Tesco maintains in-store limits on flour, dried pasta, toilet roll, baby wipes and anti-bacterial wipes are due to coronavirus panic buying – not concerns about the impending Brexit deadline or problems at Dover.

There are concerns over shortages of fresh goods amid the backlog at Dover.

British Retail Consortium director of food Andrew Opie said: ‘It is good news for consumers as the French borders have now reopened, however it is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible.

‘Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods.’

All the ingredients and produce needed for a traditional Christmas dinner are already in the country and available to consumers, the BRC said.

But if empty lorries are not allowed into France to restock, there will be shortages of fresh produce, with supplies of salad, vegetables and fresh fruit such as strawberries and raspberries most at risk as they are typically imported from the continent at this time of year.

It came as dozens of truckers trying to reach their homes on the Continent tried to force their way past officers guarding the port of Dover.

Yesterday, hundreds left their cabs and walked along the A20 to the port entrance in Kent at 8am jeering and whistling, with some shouting in English: ‘Open the border’, ‘We just want to go home’ and ‘F*** you, Boris!’

At one point several of them surged forwards towards a line of Kent Police officers who were forced to push them back as days of simmering anger at the chaotic situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic bubbled to the surface. Some drivers showed police apparently negative results, but an officer said a lot of them were ‘fake test sheets’.

Long queues at Bell & Sons butches in Bermondsey, London this morning as people wait to pick up their meat for their Christmas dinners

Long queues at Bell & Sons butches in Bermondsey, London this morning as people wait to pick up their meat for their Christmas dinners

Most people would have needed to pre-order their turkeys from the butchers in time for Christmas. Pictured is a queue outside a butchers in Bermondsey

Most people would have needed to pre-order their turkeys from the butchers in time for Christmas. Pictured is a queue outside a butchers in Bermondsey 

Tensions also boiled over 18 miles away at Manston Airport, where truckers whose lorries are being held staged a protest, broke down fences and blocked roads.

The Army and NHS staff are working together to administer Covid-19 tests at the airport, which are handed to drivers in their cabs to be self-administered under supervision.

The result will then be communicated to the driver via text or email, identifying them via their numberplate.

Two more test sites were yesterday being set up at the Dreamland amusement park in Margate and at the entrance to the Port of Dover, but the junction was blocked by vans and cars with some even parked in the wrong direction.

Earlier this month it was revealed Tesco was stockpiling in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

John Allan, the chairman of Tesco, believes the average shopping bill could go up five per cent and also claimed French cheeses like brie could be 40 per cent more expensive if there is no EU trade deal.

But critics have said there is plenty of British brie to eat and the UK is already importing 20 per cent less cheese from abroad every year.

Mr Allan, who joined the supermarket last year, said: ‘Tesco is getting ready for the worst case which is a No Deal, trying to ensure as much as we can that we stockpile long life products either in our warehouses or with our suppliers.

‘We are trying to minimise the risk of food being caught in what is probably going to be the most difficult place, which is the port of Dover.

‘We may have some shortages of fresh foods, particularly short life fresh foods. I think that will only be for a limited period, a month or two before we get back to normal.

‘There might just be slightly restricted choice for a period of time’.   

Shoppers at a Tesco Extra in south-east London this morning. Tesco has limited purchases of toilet roll, eggs, flour, pasta, soap and handwash

Shoppers at a Tesco Extra in south-east London this morning. Tesco has limited purchases of toilet roll, eggs, flour, pasta, soap and handwash

Tesco says the limits are due to coronavirus panic buying - not concerns about the impending Brexit deadline or problems at Dover

Tesco says the limits are due to coronavirus panic buying – not concerns about the impending Brexit deadline or problems at Dover

Battle to get truckers home: French firemen join fight to ease backlog of 6,000 lorries but THEY insist on personally doing Covid tests – while British testers allow far less effective self swabs

By James Fielding, James Robinson and Tom Pyman for MailOnline   

French firefighters armed with 10,000 testing kits have today joined the battle to get thousands of stranded lorry drivers across the Channel, with up to 6,000 lorries now stacked up in Kent.

A group of 24 firefighters from the continent have joined the testing effort, personally administering the swabs to lorry drivers after President Emmanuel Macron demanded truckers be tested before crossing the Channel.

Around 100 NHS staff and 170 Armed Forces personnel are leading the UK’s testing drive this morning, aiming to test hundreds of truckers per hour in a bid to clear the backlog.

Unlike the French firefighters, the British testing teams are passing the swabs to the lorry drivers to self-administer – a method considered less effective due to the depth swabs have to administered into the nose.

It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced ferries and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais will run over Christmas in a bid to end the backlog. He said last night he hoped backlog could be fixed ‘by New Year’. Others experts say the backlog could take days to clear.

Lorries have been stacking-up on the M20 and in Marston Airfield in Kent since Sunday, when France slammed shut the border after the identification of a new mutant strain of Covid-19 in the UK.

French firefighters armed with 10,000 testing kits have joined the battle to get thousands of stranded lorry drivers across the Channel today, with up to 6,000 lorries now stacked up in Kent

French firefighters armed with 10,000 testing kits have joined the battle to get thousands of stranded lorry drivers across the Channel today, with up to 6,000 lorries now stacked up in Kent

A group of 24 firefighters from the continent have joined the testing effort, personally administering the swabs to lorry drivers after President Emmanuel Macron demanded truckers be swabbed before being allowed to cross the Channel

A group of 24 firefighters from the continent have joined the testing effort, personally administering the swabs to lorry drivers after President Emmanuel Macron demanded truckers be swabbed before being allowed to cross the Channel

Unlike the the French firefighters, the British testing teams are passing over the swabs for lorry drivers to self-administer - a method which is considered less effective

Unlike the the French firefighters, the British testing teams are passing over the swabs for lorry drivers to self-administer – a method which is considered less effective

Huge shopping queues form as supermarkets airlift in European fruit and vegetables in an attempt to stop food shortages caused by ports chaos 

Huge queues formed this morning as supermarkets airlifted in fruit and vegetables in an attempt to avoid shortages of fresh produce caused by the chaos at Dover.

The British Retail Consortium has warned that there could be a lack of some fresh goods until the backlog of trucks is cleared, while the Food and Drink Federation is warning of ‘significant disruption’.

Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested the border mayhem could last up to the New Year as the Army and NHS rush to test every driver in a queue of up to 6,000 lorries.

The requirement to test all drivers heading to Europe – a key condition of France agreeing to restart trade – is delaying the speed at which lorries can restock on the Continent before returning to Britain.

German airline Lufthansa yesterday flew in 80 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables into the UK for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Aldi as thousands of hauliers remained stranded at the Kent border.

The airlift, which included lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, citrus fruits, and strawberries, came as Tesco began rationing several items and experts warned the border reopening was not soon enough to prevent shortages.

The Lufthansa airlift was commissioned by Venus, an Egyptian fruit supplier that is used by UK supermarkets. It landed at Doncaster Sheffield Airport just before 2pm yesterday, Lufthansa told MailOnline.

Food and Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright told The Grocer: ‘Last night’s news of an agreement to allow hauliers with a negative Covid test to enter France is very welcome progress.’

But he added: ‘Even working extremely quickly and with Calais possibly shut for Christmas Day, it is clear it could take until the new year to return to normal operations. Lorries will take time to return to their normal pattern of collection and delivery.

‘That means we are likely to see, locally, reduced on-shelf availability of some fresh vegetables and fruits, beginning next week. We will also see potential significant disruption to the flow of ingredients into the UK.’

MailOnline has contacted all the major supermarkets to ask if they had also put new restrictions in place.

Sainsbury’s, M&S, Morrisons and Aldi all said no, while Waitrose said had been restricting customers to two packs of toilet roll and three bags of flour for ‘a substantial period of time’. Lidl is yet to reply.

All supermarkets said they had plenty of stock.

Tensions boiled over last night in Kent as frustrated lorry drivers, who had been stuck at the border for days, waited to get a positive test.

One Polish lorry driver has told how he had to make the heartbreaking call to his pregnant wife and daughters telling them he was unlikely to make it home for Christmas, and would instead be spending it in his cab stuck on the A20 in Dover.

Wojtek Golawski is one of thousands of truckers stranded in Kent and facing disappointment over the festive season, with just 200 tests an hour being carried out on Wednesday.

There was then more confusion as it emerged that testing on Jubilee Way, the main route into the Port of Dover, was shut down last night before 10pm.  

The Department for Transport insists the immediate priority had been to clear the main backlog of vehicles along that road, that testing would resume there in the morning, and that a 24/7 operation was also in force at Manston Airport, where thousands are parked up, and on the M20 motorway.

A spokesman added that the absence of testers in Dover overnight wouldn’t prevent access to the port, while the number of drivers tested each hour on Thursday is expected to ramp up to 500 or 600, with officials looking to set up ten mobile testing units for truckers stuck in queues.  

Wojtek, from Lukow in Poland, had travelled to Britain in Sunday with pallets full of clothes, which he delivered to a depot in Nottingham. Like thousands of other delivery drivers, the 34-year-old has been stuck in Kent since the weekend.

Police have finally started letting drivers into the Port of Dover to be tested for coronavirus and, if negative, they can begin their journeys home.

Around 6,000 lorries, 4,000 at Manston Airfield and 2,000 on the M20, are said to be waiting to cross the Channel. Highways England has warned all drivers – including hauliers – to avoid travelling to Kent until further notice due to continued cross-channel disruption.

Grant Shapps last night said he was unsure at how long it would take to clear the backlog, but said he hoped it would be sorted ‘by New Year’. Today he tweeted that ferry and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais would continue over Christmas to help ease the backlog of lorries. 

Wojtek, meanwhile, is parked a mile and a half from the front of the queue and so will almost certainly not make it back home in time to see his two girls aged three and five open their presents.

He said: ‘It’s a horrible situation and it shouldn’t have got to this, I think it’s France trying to flex their muscles before Brexit.

‘But it means that I’m not going to make it home to my daughters and to my wife, who is seven months pregnant.

‘I had to make a very tough phone call to her earlier this evening to say that the problems in England meant I would have to miss Christmas this year.

‘She and the girls were very upset and so was I. It’s going to be depressing celebrating it on my own in the same lorry cab I’ve spent the last two nights sleeping in.

‘But this is what’s happening and I have to accept it. Even if I make the ferry to France tomorrow, it’s still a huge drive.

‘Miracles do happen, especially at this time of year, but I think I’ll be in England for a few more days at least.’

A driver checks his COVID-19 lateral flow test at the Port of Dover, Kent, where thousands are waiting to resume their journey across The Channel after the borders with France reopened

A driver checks his COVID-19 lateral flow test at the Port of Dover, Kent, where thousands are waiting to resume their journey across The Channel after the borders with France reopened

It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced ferries and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais will run over Christmas in a bid to end the backlog. He said last night he hoped backlog could be fixed 'by New Year'

It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced ferries and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais will run over Christmas in a bid to end the backlog. He said last night he hoped backlog could be fixed ‘by New Year’


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