ROTTERDAM (Reuters) – With the clock running down on negotiations over a Brexit trade deal, Dutch fruit and vegetable exporters fear that a failure to strike an agreement could lead to long customs queues and fresh produce rotting in trucks.
The Netherlands exported about 2 billion euros’ ($2.4 billion) worth of fruit and vegetables to Britain last year, and its port, Rotterdam, is the main hub for cargo passing from other EU member states to Britain.
If Britain crashes out of the EU without a trade deal, its imports of fresh produce will be subject to time-consuming health and customs checks.
“When our trucks are in the middle of these queues, that will be disastrous for our products because they are fresh and need to go quickly,” logistics manager Daco Sol of the Dutch fruit and vegetables producers association told Reuters.
“Each delay will lower the price of the product. Every consumer wants to consume very fresh products.”
A total of around 40 million tonnes of goods are shipped between the Netherlands and Britain every year via Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport.
To prevent long lines at ferry terminals, the Port of Rotterdam last year prepared emergency overflow parking spaces for up to 700 trucks, in anticipation of back-ups caused by Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“We are as ready as we can be,” port spokesman Leon Willems said.
“Cargo needs to be digitally pre-notified from Jan. 1, otherwise drivers will be sent away from the terminal and for that event we have parking spaces where truck drivers can (get) the paperwork in order.”
But Marcel van Bruggen, transport manager at Dutch company ABC Logistics, said he was not convinced that was enough to prevent logjams.
“I am very anxious about delays, I think that a lot of companies are not prepared yet, so trucks will arrive at the terminal without any documents or wrong documents. There will be congestion on the terminal till the highway.”
($1 = 0.8210 euros)
(Reporting by Bart Meijer and Esther Verkaik; Editing by Mike Collett-White)