The Cold Chain Federation (CCF) is urging the government to delay the full implementation of the new Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), due to launch on 30 April 2024, to prevent increased food prices and reduced consumer choice. 

The warning follows a recent report by insurer Allianz Trade which found the border controls, agreed under Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, could add 10% to import costs over the first year.

The CCF is urging Defra to postpone full implementation until October 2024 and to use the delay to address serious issues in consultation with the food logistics industry.

In a letter to Steve Barclay, Defra Secretary of State, the CCF warned that the introduction of BTOM will create uncertain costs and delays for businesses in the food supply chain, as a result of the recently introduced Common User Charges.

The CCF also questioned the readiness of Border Control Post (BCP) facilities due to staffing shortages and unfinished infrastructure.

Other concerns highlighted by the Federation include what it describes as the ”impractical” 24-hour pre-notification requirements for the groupage model.

Cold Chain Federation chief executive Phil Pluck said: “Even before its full implementation, it’s becoming evident that BTOM is a broken model; the CCF and its members will help the government get this right.

”Without listening to the experts, the government will seriously damage business confidence in the UK and add costs to consumers’ weekly shop. Temperature-controlled logistics operators are working hard to adapt to BTOM but we need better collaboration with government and EU partners to ensure a smooth transition that safeguards food safety, minimises disruption, and protects consumer interests.”

The Cold Chain Federation’s letter to the Defra Secretary asks for a number of actions prior to a full implementation of BTOM.

These include an urgent review of the operational capacity of all BCP facilities, a rapid expansion of the the trusted trader pilot scheme to support the smooth operation of BTOM for medium-risk goods,  that the government discloses the costs of BTOM and calculations for the predicted impact on food inflation.

The Allianz report found that businesses could be charged up to £145 for each consignment imported through Dover, driving up food prices and impacting small businesses.

The report said that the BTOM checks would affect £21bn of agricultural product imports, including eggs, live trees and plants, meat and fish, covering about 3% of all UK imports.

These new costs were the equivalent to adding a 10% tariff on these imports, the report calculated, which could these costs passed on to UK customers.