Logistics has always been a very important part of the fresh produce supply chain. However, over the past 18 months, it has become a major challenge and a critical factor for importers and exporters alike. Not only have they had to deal with complicated new regulations and red tape since the Brexit took effect. They also had to keep supply chains running during a global pandemic.
Gautier Descamps, commercial director of logistics, transportation and distribution company Conhexa, said the company has seen a sharp increase in demand for its services since the Brexit. “We have had to develop new services to accommodate customers and help them continue to supply their customers. We are well positioned in Dunkirk with a 28,000 m² storage area for fresh and dry products and a warehouse with a capacity of 21,000 pallets of frozen products. We have just added 5,000 m² of storage space for dry and fresh products. We also have another site located between Dunkirk and Lille with a storage capacity of 11,000 pallets of frozen products.”
50% of Conhexa’s business is fresh produce. Products can be unloaded from the ships and brought directly to the warehouse, the company also offers a complete customs clearance service as well as a full quality control by its team of inspectors.
“We have seen the need for additional storage space, first of all because the space needed is highly dependent on the shipping lines: if they introduce new destinations, it can have a huge impact on the needs. For example, if a liner decides to change its itinerary or add additional ports of call in countries like Costa Rica or Colombia, this can lead to a large increase in fresh products like bananas or avocados. Secondly, in the run-up to the Brexit and during the pandemic, customers had to stockpile goods.”
In October, the UK will introduce customs controls on all goods coming from Europe. Gautier says they are well prepared for this eventuality: “The last thing we or our customers want is for a truck to get stuck at the border because of a paperwork problem. Our location is perfect for exporters to the UK: goods can be brought from all over Europe to our warehouses and then we arrange transport to the UK, so the trucks can stay in Europe. We work in the same way for British importers who go from Dunkirk to the UK and vice versa.”
Gautier says that during the pandemic, they were prepared, or just lucky to be able to fulfill their obligations and services to customers. “We have a good organization in place, we had to make some changes and introduce new procedures to limit the number of people working in the containers and such, but we kept going. We are a small company and we have very good relationships with our customers. In March 2020, no one could tell what was going to happen and how much demand for storage space would increase. We were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough space to store everything for our customers, but we were very proud that we were able to fill all of our customers’ orders.”
“We are a family business and that makes us very flexible. If we have a question or problem, we discuss it over a cup of coffee…the door is always open. Our staff is made up of long-time workers who know the business. We want to be a reference in the industry.”
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