Will French supermarkets be opening in the Island?
THE States are exploring the possibility of strengthening freight links with St Malo and allowing French supermarkets to operate in the Island.
During a public question-and-answer session on Monday night as part of the Ready for Brexit campaign, ministers were questioned about the Island’s food security and asked whether making better use of French supply routes would be beneficial.
The UK’s impending departure from the EU has led to questions being raised about Jersey’s existing supply routes, with the vast majority of freight delivered from UK ports being opened up to potential disruption by Brexit.
Darren Scott, an assistant director in the Economic Development Department, said that in principle ‘not a great deal’ would prevent Jersey from using St Malo as a freight link.
‘There are some administrative hurdles for the Council of Minsters and politicians,’ he said.
‘But we already have freight links to France and they are under-utilised. We do have boats to St Malo that are returning and are not full of freight, so there is capacity.
‘The reality of the situation is that for the vast majority of retailers in Jersey, their supply chain looks north. But, in principle, there is no reason why it could not look south.
‘French supermarkets have shown interest in moving to Jersey. It would just take time to organise.’
Mr Scott added that supply routes from France could be used in an ‘emergency situation’, if there were food shortages in Jersey, but said he did not think this would happen.
External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said that he knew that bringing in more freight from France was ‘a longer-term policy issue that the Economic Development Department is considering’.
Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis said that he was highly supportive of the idea, because it would mean the Island would be less prone to food shortages.
‘I know there would be complications, but it would be another string to our bow and I would like to see food security improved,’ he said.
During the question session, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham also addressed the issue of whether the Island could face fresh food shortages post-Brexit.
He said that local growers could meet much of the demand, but that the supply of more niche foods could be disrupted.
‘We do produce enough produce and dairy products. We export a lot more than we use,’ Senator Farnham said. ‘My department has been working very closely with wholesale and retail sectors and we will be realigning their stocks and logistics procedures. We are in limbo at the moment, so we don’t know what is going to happen. We are unlikely to see disruption in root vegetables and staples, but if we want half and quartered de-stoned avocados, that might be a bit of a problem.’ Senator Gorst added that there could be an ‘opportunity to some extent’ for local growers to meet the ‘narrowing of supply’ of produce.