Border issues could cause gaps on supermarket shelves, Sainsbury’s warns

Salad leaves and citrus fruits could be missing from supermarket shelves as a result of restrictions on UK-France trade, Sainsbury's has warned.

The supermarket giant said France's ban on freight hauliers from the UK could affect food supplies but assured customers that crucial Christmas dinner supplies are available and already in the country.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the ban on accompanied freight was "slightly surprising".

Thousands of lorries that were meant to travel across the English Channel on Monday have been told to stay away from Kent ports.

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21 December 2020, Berlin: The information board at the capital's airport shows flights from London-Gatwick and Manchester as "cancelled". Following the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, numerous countries are suspending flights from the UK for the time being - including Germany. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa (Photo by Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Freight lorries and goods vehicles are pictured parked in a paring lot near the Port of Dover in in Dover, Kent, on the south east coast of England on December 21, 2020, as a string of countries banned travellers all but unaccompanied freight arriving from the UK, due to the rapid spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain. - Britain's critical south coast port at Dover said on Sunday it was closing to all accompanied freight and passengers due to the French border restrictions "until further notice". (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Freight lorries at organised into stacks on the M20 motorway which leads to the Port of Dover at Mersham in Kent, south east England on December 21, 2020, as a string of countries banned travel including accompanied freight arriving from the UK, due to the rapid spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain. - Britain's critical south coast port at Dover said on Sunday it was closing to all accompanied freight and passengers due to the French border restrictions "until further notice". (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
People queue for a shuttle train at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex, amid concerns that borders will close and with the public being urged to adhere to Government guidance after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that from Sunday areas in the South East currently in Tier 3 will be moved into a new Tier 4 for two weeks Ð effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November, after scientists warned of the rapid spread of the new variant coronavirus. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Passengers at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex, amid concerns that borders will close and with the public being urged to adhere to Government guidance after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that from Sunday areas in the South East currently in Tier 3 will be moved into a new Tier 4 for two weeks Ð effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November, after scientists warned of the rapid spread of the new variant coronavirus. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KONGDOM - DECEMBER 20: Passengers arrive at St Pancras International train station in London, United Kingdom on December 20, 2020 as several European countries ban travel to and from the UK due to fears over the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus. Large parts of south-east England, including London, are now under a new, stricter level of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus during the upcoming holiday season. (Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Police and port staff turn away vehicles from the Port of Dover in Kent which has been closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police and port staff turn away vehicles from the Port of Dover in Kent which has been closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police and port staff turn away vehicles from the Port of Dover in Kent which has been closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Empty ramps and lanes at the Port of Dover in Kent which has been closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
The White Cliffs are reflected in the windscreen of a lorry whilst the driver sits his cab and queues to enter the port of Dover in Kent as the UK marked less than two weeks until 2021 and the end of the Brexit transition period. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police and port staff turn away vehicles from the Port of Dover in Kent which has been closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ramps and lanes are empty at the Port of Dover in Kent, England which has been closed after the French government's announcement Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. France banned all travel from the UK for 48 hours from midnight Sunday, including trucks carrying freight through the tunnel under the English Channel or from the port of Dover on England's south coast. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)
LONDON, UNITED KONGDOM - DECEMBER 20: Police officers patrol at St Pancras International train station in London, United Kingdom on December 20, 2020. several European countries ban travel to and from the UK due to fears over the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus. Large parts of south-east England, including London, are now under a new, stricter level of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus during the upcoming holiday season. (Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Passengers at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex, amid concerns that borders will close and with the public being urged to adhere to Government guidance after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that from Sunday areas in the South East currently in Tier 3 will be moved into a new Tier 4 for two weeks Ð effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November, after scientists warned of the rapid spread of the new variant coronavirus. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
21 December 2020, Lower Saxony, Langenhagen: Emergency vehicles of the rescue service stand on the grounds of Hannover-Langenhagen Airport. Due to the new variant of the coronavirus, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has instructed the Federal Police to systematically check travellers from Great Britain and South Africa with immediate effect. Photo: Moritz Frankenberg/dpa (Photo by Moritz Frankenberg/picture alliance via Getty Images)
21 December 2020, Lower Saxony, Langenhagen: Emergency personnel stand by and in an airport fire brigade bus on the grounds of Hannover-Langenhagen Airport. Due to the new variant of the coronavirus, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has instructed the Federal Police to systematically check travellers from Great Britain and South Africa with immediate effect. Photo: Moritz Frankenberg/dpa (Photo by Moritz Frankenberg/picture alliance via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 21: Passengers arrive at Istanbul airport as Turkey began testing passengers arriving from the UK early Monday for a new variant of the coronavirus after health officials in Britain confirmed it was rapidly spreading in the country on December 21, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. All passengers contact details were taken and they are required to self-isolate.Turkey joined other European countries late Sunday in banning flights from the UK and other countries due to concerns over the new fast-moving coronavirus strain. (Photo by Abidin Mutlu Bozdag/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 21: Passengers arrive at Istanbul airport as Turkey began testing passengers arriving from the UK early Monday for a new variant of the coronavirus after health officials in Britain confirmed it was rapidly spreading in the country on December 21, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. All passengers contact details were taken and they are required to self-isolate.Turkey joined other European countries late Sunday in banning flights from the UK and other countries due to concerns over the new fast-moving coronavirus strain. (Photo by Abidin Mutlu Bozdag/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Empty check-in lanes at the Port of Dover in Kent which has been closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
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HGVs turning up at Dover this morning have been greeted with glowing signs saying "French borders closed" and are being turned away.

It comes as the south-east of England grapples with a new variant of coronavirus that could be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain.

A Sainsbury's spokesperson said: "All products for the Great British Christmas lunch are already in the country and we have plenty of these.

"If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that "probably about 20%" of goods going into and out of the country passes through Kent.

He told Sky News: "But it's not the mainstay. Most goods actually come in and out by unaccompanied containers and those will continue to flow."

Asked about what the shortages could be, Mr Shapps said: "Obviously we don't want these links to be closed for too long, but it's not unusual for them to be closed and disrupted.

"In the short term it's not a specific problem. But of course the key is to get it resolved."

While unaccompanied freight is exempt from the 48-hour ban, goods that would usually be transported on lorries driven onto ferries by drivers face being unable to cross the Channel to France.

This will mean that the vast majority of trade out of the port of Dover could be held up at the border.

Peter Denby, managing director of Lincoln-based haulage firm Denby Transport, said the ban may impact deliveries he had hoped to complete before the end of Brexit transition period on December 31.

He told the PA news agency: "We still have some exports to ship that we had planned between Christmas and the new year.

"If we are unable to ship those, that then becomes a lot more complicated as far as our customers are concerned because they will have to provide export transit documentation and a whole raft of things

"You cannot believe how many more bits of paper work and admin we are going to have to do post-January 1, compared to today."

Mr Denby said he had seven vehicles on the continent, which makes up almost three-quarters of his fleet.

He said: "Not being able to ship for 48 hours is a bit of a problem, although we have probably dropped a bit lucky because it is Christmas, so we didn't have anyone scheduled to go out on Sunday or Monday."

In 2019, more than 1,235,000 self-propelled vehicles left the UK through the Kent port, according to Government statistics.

This equated to more than 97% of outbound movements through Dover.

Meanwhile, unaccompanied road units such as trailers as well as units such as containers that are lifted onto ferries accounted for less than 3%.

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