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Port of Dover will 'step up' to meet coronavirus food supply challenges

By Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent

With supermarket shelves across Britain stripped bare as coronavirus panic-buying continues, how food arrives in our shops is increasingly under the spotlight.

Five million vehicles pass through the Port of Dover every year, making it Europe's busiest ferry port and a vital cog in the country's supply chain.

An often quoted statistic in the run-up to Brexit was that if there was an additional two minutes to processing time at the Kent port it would create a 17-mile queue - so what will happen as the Covid-19 crisis continues to escalate?

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister vowed on Thursday that the port will "step up" to ensure goods continue to flow to their destinations across Britain.

In a statement, Mr Bannister said: "We are all being challenged by the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, and for us we know it is essential that the Port of Dover continues to provide this critical link - people up and down the UK are counting on us for the goods, medicines and resources they need.

"We have been at the front line of major national and international challenges so many times before.

"This time we will also step up to help ensure that vital goods flow to their destination across Britain."

Mr Bannister cited the ash cloud as an example of when the Port of Dover was "at the forefront of the response" to an international crisis.

The busy port on the UK's south coast handles £122 billion of trade and 17% of the country's trade in goods.

He continued: "As outlined by the Prime Minister and his advisers, this situation could go on for several months.

"It will be a marathon, not a sprint. Yet, as supermarket shelves need constantly filling and re-filling, each and every day, it will always be a sprint for the supply chains and they will always rely on the speed and capacity of our operation that among ports is unique to Dover."

Mr Bannister also moved to assure the public that everyone at the port is following Government and Public Health England advice to keep themselves safe and ensure the flow of vital goods continues.

"As we all embrace a new reality, we remain one team focused on maintaining that lifeline.

"We are all in it together and together we are all in to keep Britain's trade flowing."

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