Lufthansa will airlift food to the U.K. amid border closure and fears of food shortages due to new COVID strain

December 22, 2020, 6:46 PM UTC

Lufthansa will airlift fresh produce to Britain on Wednesday amid fears of shortages over the festive season, even as France prepares to reopen the main truck-ferry route with its neighbor.

The German airline will fly 80 metric tons of food to Doncaster-Sheffield airport in northern England using a Boeing Co. 777F freighter, a spokesman said Tuesday.

While the European Union called for the resumption of transport to the U.K., the key port of Dover remained snarled with trucks unable to cross to Calais for a second day. France, which severed the link after a faster-spreading strain of COVID-19 emerged in Britain, told the EU the route should reopen by midnight, according to people familiar with the matter.

Lufthansa said the emergency flight will carry unspecified “perishable goods” from Frankfurt, a major European hub for food distribution that has strong connections to producers in Italy, France and Spain, as well as the Netherlands, where food is grown under glass to extend the growing season.

The carrier said it’s working with multiple freight-forwarding specialists, which it declined to name.

The head of Britain’s Food and Drink Federation, Ian Wright, told Bloomberg TV earlier that if the port crisis wasn’t resolved there would be shortages of foodstuffs sourced from outside the U.K., such as citrus fruits and some green vegetables.

Sainsbury warned Monday that the chaos at Dover could result in gaps on its shelves for items including lettuce, other salad leaves, cauliflowers, and broccoli, as well as fruit. Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, urged customers not to panic-buy, saying it had good levels of stock, including foods sourced from France.

The British Retail Consortium estimates that around 40% of the food supermarkets import comes through Dover, with a higher proportion for fresh produce.