How specialist logistics providers can navigate the challenges facing today’s industry  

Issues impacting those involved in supply chain logistics for perishable goods continue to hit the headlines. As such, those involved in the sector are regularly required to adjust operations to contend with the new challenges.   

Import woes

Jason Spencer-Knox is the Regional CEO at PML Seafrigo
Jason Spencer-Knox, Regional CEO at PML Seafrigo

Chaos at the UK’s ports following Britain’s departure from the EU remains. The proposed physical checks on animal products, dairy, plants, and plant products coming into the UK via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel have been constantly delayed. This has caused grave concerns regarding the ability for the government-controlled Border Control Post at Sevington, Kent to cope with the volume of traffic, resulting in further disruption for consignments of essential foods, which compromises shelf life and is likely to push up prices.  

The latest blow is the announcement of the new Border Control Post Common User Charge (CUC) for goods passing through Sevington – yet another factor likely to influence the cost of these foods and offering further ammunition to the argument for overseas producers to avoid exporting to the UK.  

Thankfully, the UK Government has acceded to waiver the CUC for participants of the Authorised Operator Status (AOS) where sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks can take place at a non-government inland control point such as that operated by PML Seafrigo at its Lympne, Kent site.  

The company’s Kent transport and logistics hub has been set up for some time as an inland border control post and was one of the first to register for the AOS. It is well placed to help UK businesses continue to import critical low or medium risk plants and produce without incurring any additional costs.  

Reduced risk 

Buyers of temperature-sensitive goods like fresh fruit and vegetables have had to diversify their supply base to spread the risk posed by environmental changes impacting the availability of such produce. In a world where climate change is affecting the predictability of key crops, buyers are actively seeking out suppliers based in different geographical locations to ensure a continued and seamless supply. This means that companies specializing in the movement of these essential foods are increasingly required to offer a service with a truly global reach to keep pace with the changing buyer landscape.  

Price matters 

It is well documented that producers and growers are under considerable pressure in terms of mounting labor costs, limited access to essential migrant labor, rising energy and fertilizer costs – the list goes on. Consequently, the production costs for perishable goods destined for the supermarket shelves is likely to increase, which against the backdrop of rising inflation and a nation effectively in a cost-of-living crisis is inevitably causing deeper scrutiny of the expenses associated with the transfer of goods from the country of origin to the end retailer.  

Companies involved in supply chain operations are having to continuously review their processes and systems to seek out innovative products and new technologies, which represent an attractive logistics proposition in the current economic climate.   

Arrow graph heading upwards in front of shipping cratesBoost to export 

In the wake of Brexit, we are seeing a positive nudge with regard to the export of UK food and drink, with UK producers keen to actively seek out new markets where their goods will be well received. ‘Brand UK’ is performing well overseas, but the costs associated with the transfer of fine foods can represent a major barrier to SMEs.  

Initiatives like PML Seafrigo’s recently launched chilled less than container load (LCL) to the US are proving a lifeline, offering fine food producers access to a speedy but affordable route to the US, with transfer of the best of British artisan foods in just 11 days. Customers only pay for the space they use in the container, with the goods of several clients placed in one container to create a highly cost-effective freight solution. By establishing an attractive shipping option to such a significant market, smaller producers can build their business and hopefully flourish.   

One-stop shop 

Given the ever-changing dynamics of supply chain logistics, customers are looking for reputable experience and expertise to help them navigate these choppy waters. As well as proven heritage within the sector, there is a clear appetite for working with businesses that have the capacity to deliver a one-stop solution, handling every stage of the journey and taking responsibility for the transfer of goods from the producer right up to the last mile.  

This has led to companies such as PML Seafrigo, which represents a global platform with multiple service offerings. This maintains the focus on ownership of assets and shuns any reliance on third parties, providing added reassurance that a client’s consignment is always 100 percent trackable and in the safest hands.  

2024 will be a tough year for those involved in the storage and transfer of goods across the supply chain and related services. During these turbulent times, only businesses with a strategic vision, as well as the ability and resources, to adapt and respond to the complex issues currently at play will survive.  

Jason Spencer-Knox is the Regional CEO at PML Seafrigo, a leading global perishables and temperature-controlled logistics network for the food and beverage sector. With experience working at companies across the UK and the Netherlands, Jason now heads up the company’s growth and business transformation projects.