Highly successful British poultry breeding companies are considering relocating if there is significant disruption at the UK-EU border when the Brexit transition period comes to an end in December.
British Poultry Council (BPC) chief executive Richard Griffiths said the UK was ‘the hub of the industry’ for a large part of the world, with 90 per cent of meat ducks across the globe descended from British breeding stock.
Two-three truckloads of day-old chicks – mainly broilers, turkeys and ducks – are sent across the Channel every day, with each load worth up to half a million pounds, depending on the generation of stock.
Concerns have been raised that long queues of traffic in Kent will cause welfare and cost issues.
“The new system might all work,” said Mr Griffiths.
“But if it does not work, it is another push for the breeding companies to look at basing operations outside of the UK.
“We are talking about penalising a British success story and potentially driving those companies out of the country, simply because of logistics.”
In a new consultation on Operation Brock, the Government’s plan to avoid disruption at the border, Ministers acknowledged the welfare issues associated with moving day-old chicks and suggested they could be prioritised.
But some industry bodies fear the new Smart Freight IT system to manage traffic, which requires any business driving a lorry to Dover or the Eurotunnel to log their vehicle and load details ahead of time, may run into trouble.
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said: “The aim is to stop vehicles going to the border which are not ready to go through. But the problem is, the IT system has not been built yet.
“That is the case for about five different IT systems which need to be in place at different stages, whether it is January 1, April 1 or July 1.”
Even if the IT does work, there is a further risk that many European hauliers may not be prepared when the new rules come into place.
It is estimated that at least 80 per cent of the vehicles which move between the UK and mainland Europe are European-registered, so less likely to engage with a UK system for managing vehicles on UK roads.