Ash cloud flight ban has hit supply chains

21 April 2010

21 April 2010 | Nick Martindale

The six-day grounding of flights in and out of the UK has affected supply of categories including perishable foods, flowers, pharmaceutical products and high-tech components.

According to the British International Freight Association spokesman Ian Matheson: “Airport cargo sheds are not accepting cargo so it is building up in warehouses at freight forwarders.”

Food sourcing organisation Partners In Purchasing warned that figs, passion fruit, asparagus tips, fine beans, mange tout, banana leaves, baby corn, blackberries and blueberries could also be affected.

Meanwhile, Clive Hetherington, owner and director of finance for London-based caterer Vacherin, whose contracts include fine dining for the Whitechapel Art Gallery, also said he was expecting some shortages.

“We are just now starting to receive some notifications of shortfalls in some fish availability but I think we are fleet-footed enough to switch menus to accommodate any supply issue,” he told FM World, SM’s sister publication. “It’s not a critical situation at the moment but who knows what will happen.”

Phil McCabe, spokesman for the Forum of Private Business, said he was aware of one company reliant on imported pork that was struggling to meet orders.

So far, the major retailers have been largely unaffected. Tesco said it was flying fruit and flowers to Spain for transportation to the UK by truck.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “Our strong British sourcing policy means our reliance on imported products is lower than that of many other retailers.

“Where we do source internationally, the majority is transported via road or sea freight, so the effects of the airspace restrictions have been minimal. We will, however, continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Although the BIFA said that pharmaceutical supplies may be affected, the Department of Health said there had been no shortages of medical supplies. A spokesperson said: “The NHS has contingency plans to safeguard patient care in the event of any potential disruption to supplies.”

Richard Forrest, director at Barloworld Supply Chain Software, said: “Many manufacturers are now being forced to deal with the impact of delayed air freight supplies and the knock-on effect this has on inventory management, the manufacturing process and customer orders.”

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