BBC reporter Anna Holligan explains how Brexit has affected the way the Netherlands exports fresh food to the UK.
ANNA HOLLIGAN: Peppers and tomatoes, the top two types of fresh produce exported from the Netherlands to the UK every year. Approximately 1.2 billion euros’ worth of Dutch fruit and veg is exported to the UK annually.
The before-Brexit border-free trade zone meant that supermarkets in the UK could order crates like this from a warehouse like this one near Rotterdam in the morning, and within 24 hours, they’d have these peppers on their shelves. So has that changed?
MARCEL VAN BRUGGEN: Well, that changed because to export the fruit and vegetables, we need more documents, so there comes a lot of administrative work. So eventually the consumer has to pay for this.
ANNA HOLLIGAN: If you’re in the UK, the chances are your local supermarket is stocking produce imported from here in Rotterdam, and not all of it grown in the Netherlands.
MARCEL VAN BRUGGEN: The UK is a very important export country for us. It’s one of the top five export countries for our company. So we do a lot of business. It’s very important for us that everything is going smooth.
ANNA HOLLIGAN: And the UK isn’t exactly self-sufficient when it comes to growing its greens. More than 80% of vegetables and 40% of fruit is imported from overseas.
The road towards the port is lined with greenhouses. The intensity of farming here has helped turn this small nation into one of the world’s biggest food exporters. You can see why it’s often called the Greenhouse of Europe.
It used to be fresh produce could sail freely between the Netherlands, other EU countries, and the UK without any checks at the ports. But since the UK left the EU’s customs union, it means more paperwork, so customs declarations and plant health certificates. Both of those are essential to secure a place on this ferry heading towards the UK.