A County Down food company -the largest processor of lettuce on the island of Ireland- has lashed out at the UK government as hold-ups at ports threaten to stop its supply of lettuce, courgettes and peppers. John McCann MBE, owner of Willowbrook Foods in Killinchy, said problems at ports as a result of increased red tape could threaten the flow of salad vegetables usually imported from southern Europe in the winter months.
McCann said that on top of lowered sales as a result of Covid-19, challenges for importers arising from the Irish Sea border are complicating his business.
Managing director Jonathan Magowan said the business had signed up to the Trusted Traders' Scheme. He said it had hoped to benefit from the three-month grace period applying to supermarkets and others shipping foods into NI.
"As producers in NI we've had to delay lorries and we are relying on suppliers to do the right paperwork and some have said that if processes aren't simplified they may have to pull out of supplying here or charge more. We were told all along that we would be in an equal position as the rest of the UK but that's not the case."
According to McCann, bad weather has also hit supplies from Spain. "I would like to see a sensible approach to extremely perishable commodities like lettuce coming into NI. You can't mess with fresh food."