German airline Lufthansa on Wednesday sent a freight plane carrying fruit and vegetables to the U.K., amid fears that gridlocked cross-Channel traffic could put British supplies at risk.
The plane’s cargo, 80 tons of fruit and vegetables, would go straight to supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Coop and Aldi, a spokesperson said.
France halted U.K. travel, including freight transport, Sunday evening over fears that travelers could carry a new coronavirus strain, said to be 70 percent more transmissible, to mainland Europe. Freight traffic remains disrupted as France requires truckers to get a negative test before crossing the Channel.
The ban left truckers stranded in Dover, while others were unwilling to make the journey, with perishable goods particularly vulnerable to long border holdups.
“The food supply chain relies on the rapid transfer of goods across the Channel,” Mella Frewen, the director general of industry group FoodDrinkEurope, warned Monday.
The German airline’s cargo arm regularly ships perishable goods such as fruit and vegetables to the U.K., but half of its cargo tends to travel in the belly holds of passenger flights.
But travel bans EU countries imposed on the U.K. have left belly capacity — already down due to the pandemic — very limited, Lufthansa’s spokesperson said. “That’s the reason why we set up a special task force to find very quickly a solution to bring the perishables to the U.K. on time and in a good quality.”
Lufthansa may send more special cargo flights to the U.K. in the next days and is mulling a regular connection.
“This could be with a freighter, but we are also examining if we could use passenger aircraft for freight flights only,” the spokesperson said.