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28th June 2021

My Brexit journey: Warehouse & Supply Chain Manager Paul Morrissey, Fudge Kitchen

Based: Lyminge

Size: 25 employees

Sector: Food; UK’s top luxury, artisan fudge retailer and producer.

Our business has completely switched because of Covid. Traditionally, a big route to market for us was via key premium retailers such as Harrods and Selfridges, who depend greatly on tourism trade. But last summer was a double-edged sword – stores could open but there was no footfall. Luckily, as the high street trade dropped off, our online side really picked up, particularly with hamper company demand and gifting.

This new business has carried us – not just through the pandemic, but through the initial stages of Transition because we paused most of our exports for the first few months of this year, having anticipated issues with shipping to the EU.

On the two occasions we have exported to the EU since 1 January, to Germany, we experienced problems. Things are much better on the import side - we bring in both packaging and raw ingredients and so far, that has continued to work just fine.

One of the first things we did to prepare for the new trading arrangements was get an EORI number, a customs identification number. I joined every webinar I could and getting an EORI number was always the first piece of advice that came up.

On the advice of Trading Standards, we checked our packaging thoroughly to make sure there was no mention of the EU nor any use of logos no longer permitted, and this was relatively straight forward because our ranges are almost wholly in templates.

I also talked to our pallet haulier. The carriers are really the ones on the frontline and having to work with documentation and clearance. As a result, I set up a packing list that automatically fed into a commercial invoice based on all the requirements our haulier told us we needed to have on paper.

It meant that if I wasn’t around, our Head of Sales could open the document, go to the list, and from the dropdown options pick the SKU (stock keeping unit) that would automate the HS (customs) code, as well as volume and weight. That was useful to do and, once we get used to it, this new system should mean the current paperwork requirements are not a problem.

But, of course, things are still changing - and that is the biggest challenge. Last October-November, I thought things would settle down by April, but I just can’t see the end. Only in March 2021 did we learn that POAO or Composite Products (plant and animal based, of which our fudge certainly is) could be subject to the mandatory supply of numerous Export Health certificates, all at additional cost. Thankfully, shelf-stable (ambient) Composite Products are not subject to this but the FBO Importer must complete and sign a Private Attestation, upon which we, the exporter of goods, have to list all ingredients in descending order of weight and including nature and percentage of each ingredient.! Crazy to think that just 4 months ago, you could ship goods into the EU without any such administration or documentation.

Life would be easier if there were a ‘one-size-fits-all’ rule. It is very complex dealing with different rules for different companies and carriers, but maybe things will simplify over time.

Overall, I’d say: ‘beware information overload’. Looking at my notebook from the past few months, I can see it is full of question marks and arrows. I got myself into a bit of panic that I would miss out on something key and got so much information it made a complex situation more confusing. Find people you trust to give you the best advice and then stick with them to keep things simple.

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