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Release ID: 4645

Ash cloud impact: stranded passengers are only half the story, says FTA

The human impact of sustained airspace closure across northern Europe due to the volcanic ash cloud extends far beyond stranded holidaymakers, with consumers now being affected thanks to imports of fresh fruit and vegetables being grounded, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Global Supply Chain Policy, said:

“With imports of some fruit and vegetables grounded, certain fresh produce, such as exotic fruits and fresh flowers, are starting to become noticeable by their absence from our supermarket shelves. Even if British airspace opened up immediately, it would take a fortnight to clear the backlog of air freight destined for the UK, so we already face an unprecedented logistical challenge. Of course, for fresh produce, this could simply be too long a wait and some will simply have to be destroyed.

“Producers in Africa are being particularly badly hit - in some areas of the continent 90 per cent of fruit, flowers and vegetable exports to Europe are delivered by air. With over one million African farmers reliant on the UK consumption of their fruit and vegetables, UK holidaymakers are not the only ones watching the skies.”

The unprecedented closure of UK airspace is also taking its toll on other sectors, with the major parcel carriers already turning to road transport as an alternative for domestic and European deliveries. While the volume of goods transported by air is relatively small, air freighted goods account for around a quarter of the value of goods moved in and out of the UK. High value products, such as small manufacturing components and jewellery, and those with a short shelf-life – from green beans and fish to important vaccines – rely on air freight services as the only viable means of transport.

While freight forwarders are doing their utmost to maintain levels of service, the airspace shutdown will inevitably have a detrimental effect on businesses and consumers.

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