Liam Fassam discusses how the crisis in Calais pushes the resilience of the supply chain

Date 13.11.2015

​Liam Fassam​, Senior Lecturer in Supply Chain Management within Northampton Business School, gives his opinion on how the developing crisis in Calais pushes the resilience of the supply chain.

“Over ​the years of being immersed in business, I have become increasingly concerned about the security dynamics that comprise food supply chains. The developing crisis at the ‘land bridge’ – Calais – is the very product [disruption] that pushes the resilience of a supply chain to its limits.

When we consider that a purported £89 billion of trade transits Calais annually, we simply cannot afford as a collaborative set of nations (Europe) to have this vital pipeline disrupted. Contained within this trade figure is a high proportion of fresh produce making its way to UK retailers to sustain our daily requirements, and the possibility of supply disruptions is becoming ever evident. The risk to the food supply chain is ever increasing with Luke ​Heighton of the Guardian citing “up to £2 million pounds being lost each week as suppliers are forced to dump perishable goods amid worsening levels of security at the port of Calais, freight bosses claimed.”

So what can be done to secure th​​is vital supply corridor? James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the FTA intimated in talks with the UK Home Office that some hauliers are taking 100 mile detours to avoid the risks associated with the current Calais operations. However, as any seasoned logistician will know, this will add lead time, cost and risks of obsolescence to an already margin constrained industry. With 90 per cent of the European food supply chain comprising SME sized organisations it begs the question; how long will holistic supply chains be able to absorb sustained periods of cost increases?

Nonetheless, putting aside the economic and social aspects which are enveloping the Calais crisis at present, there is a third more sinister dimension lurking, something which appears devoid in the varying discussions. Arguably we as a nation are very exposed, with logistics nodes that convey the food through European Supply chains being easily exploitable and susceptible to interference, the dimensions of criminality and terrorism could easily manifest themselves within this crucial life line. Therefore, is the Calais crisis exposing how wide open we are as a nation to a continued increase of the food fraud trend or worse, the first ‘food terrorism’ attack?

Consequently as a nation we are enduring the ultimate economic, social and security dilemma; can we secure our trade lanes from criminality, terrorism and waste, whilst balancing the human rights of migrants, all at a ‘cost to serve’ desired by the public?”