TALKS are under way with French supermarkets to help improve food supplies to the Island amid an ‘unprecedented’ period of disruption which has left shelves bare.
Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel said early conversations were taking place with retailers from the EU country which ‘may be interested’ in opening a store in the Island.
And he said he was also keen to improve freight links with France to add greater resilience to the retail offering.
His comments come in the wake of poor weather conditions that have disrupted some of Condor’s high-speed and conventional freight sailings, leaving fresh goods in short supply.
Deputy Morel said: ‘Specifically, with regard to supermarkets, the greatest impact would come should they choose to import from France.
‘Some supermarkets currently are increasing their supplies via France and we are currently engaging in conversations with French supermarket businesses that may be interested in establishing themselves in Jersey.
‘These are early stage conversations and may or may not lead somewhere. A regular French supply route would also enable us to import fresh food from France, thereby enabling shelves to remain fuller.’
However, Deputy Morel, who visited the port of St Malo last week for trade talks, added that Brexit had created more paperwork for goods traded between Jersey and France.
He added: ‘Brexit’s perhaps unintended consequence is that it has shown the Island just how reliant it is on the UK for supplies and that previous governments had become complacent with regard to Jersey’s resilience and our relations with Brittany and Normandy. Brexit has focused our efforts to increase resilience and to improve our relations with our nearest neighbours.
‘Brexit’s implications have a direct impact in terms of requiring a greater burden of paperwork when goods are traded between the Island and France.
‘However, this impact is not insurmountable and indeed, currently the UK has chosen to waive the paperwork for imported goods – it keeps extending the deadline for this.’
Daphne East, vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce retail and supply committee, said the sector had ‘not seen this level of [weather-related] disruption for a sustained period like this before’.
‘The current issues have been since early November. This has been purely due to adverse weather and Condor and Ferryspeed are doing their best to support all deliveries across the Island,’ she said.
‘Unfortunately, this is weather-related and it’s unusual to have these issues for such a long period of time. Retail is used to disruption during the winter months due to weather and can prepare for a few late deliveries so will increase stock-holding across some ranges. However, this level of disruption is not something that can be forecasted too far in advance.’
Susana Lima, assistant manager of Alliance’s Sand Street branch, said the current situation was ‘not a good scenario’.
‘This is the third week that we have had this [issue]. I don’t remember it going on for so long.
‘If the deliveries don’t come on time there is going to be waste and things going out of date,’ she added.
Condor has chartered an additional freight ship to improve capacity in the lead-up to Christmas – and to help the ferry company ‘catch up’ on shipments following the sustained period of stormy weather.
MV Arrow, a 122-metre vessel regularly chartered by Condor when its freight ships are placed in dry dock, will now support the seasonal seven-day-a-week freight operation provided by Commodore Clipper and Commodore Goodwill for the first two weeks of December.
Commenting on the additional freight ship, Condor chief executive John Napton said: ‘We know how important Christmas and New Year are –not only for passengers, but also for our freight clients who are vital partners as we keep the islands connected and supplied.’
He added: ‘This is a significant investment on the part of Condor but we’re convinced it’s the right thing to do, as Arrow increases our resilience during the uplift in seasonal demand. The extra capacity provided will also help during this sustained period of adverse weather which has impacted on us over the past four weeks.’