Brexit stock­pil­ing bears lit­tle fruit for whole­saler

The Star Malaysia - - World -

LON­DON: Fresh fruit and veg­etable en­tre­pre­neur Franco Fu­bini knows all about the im­por­tance of goods ar­riv­ing on time, as Brexit threat­ens to de­lay de­liv­ery of pro­duce into and out of Bri­tain.

Pre­par­ing for pos­si­ble tran­sit chaos at the bor­der fol­low­ing Bri­tain’s for­mal de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union on March 29, UK com­pa­nies from su­per­mar­kets to car­mak­ers are pre­par­ing to stock­pile.

How­ever for Fu­bini’s com­pany Na­toora – a whole­saler, re­tailer and food pro­ducer – stock­pil­ing fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles is not an op­tion.

“For us, the fresh­ness of the prod­uct is es­sen­tial,” CEO Fu­bini said.

Whether his im­ported av­o­ca­dos, peaches and toma­toes will con­tinue to ar­rive at the cap­i­tal’s finest eater­ies on time is far from cer­tain as law­mak­ers pre­pare for next week’s cru­cial UK par­lia­men­tary vote on the Brexit di­vorce deal.

“There is a huge amount of prod- uct that doesn’t grow in the UK, pri­mar­ily a lot of the fruit,” said the Ar­gen­tinian-Ital­ian.

“We are forced to bring prod­ucts from the con­ti­nent.”

Na­toora sup­plies more than 1,000 mostly top-end restau­rants in a busi­ness span­ning Lon­don, New York and Paris, with fresh pro­duce sourced from farms in the UK, Italy, France, Spain and the United States.

“The con­sump­tion that hap­pens at restau­rants and the con­sump­tion in our re­tail stores, par­tic­u­larly eat- ing out, is very sen­si­tive to im­me­di­ate con­sumer con­cerns sur­round­ing Brexit,” Fu­bini, 44, said.

As for the sup­ply chain, “there def­i­nitely is a con­cern about dis­rup­tion”, he said.

Na­toora’s pro­duce from main­land Europe comes into the UK on re­frig­er­ated lor­ries through the Chan­nel Tun­nel link­ing Bri­tain and France.

“On av­er­age across all the re­gions, you’re look­ing at 36-48 hours from har­vest­ing the prod­uct to ar­riv­ing in restau­rants,” ex­plained Fu­bini.

“I am hop­ing that com­mon sense, par­tic­u­larly in the case of some­thing as crit­i­cal as fresh food, will help us get through this.”

He added: “There is very lit­tle that we can do within our sup­ply chain. We can’t stock­pile, we can’t shorten our sup­ply chain, un­less we he­li­copter things in!

“In order for us to plan, the only thing we can do is wait and see.”

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