One of the issues concerning local businesses as we emerge from the pandemic has been the likely effect on exporters. With business trying to catch up on two years of relative quiet because of Covid, what was going to happen, particularly at Dover, as for the time we encounter the post-Brexit arrangements and something like normal business?
The answer, given at one of my regular breakfast meetings at the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, is that there is good news and bad news.
The good news is that there is no drama at Dover. People exporting goods find it takes a bit longer, and requires some more paperwork, but that is the extent of the problems so far. Given the predictions of 17-mile queues on the M20 this is a genuine relief.
Much less good news is the general problem of getting raw materials in the first place—the so-called supply chain issues. I describe this as a general problem because at the breakfast there were stories of massive delays in the supply of goods from microchips to sugar, as well as steel and timber.
The problem is that everyone in the world is trying to make up for lost production, and since most companies moved to just-in-time production, which means they don’t hold stock on the premises, the demand for the building blocks of the finished products we buy has gone through the roof.
The result is that delays are longer, and prices are higher. On top of that small firms often don’t have the buying power to compete with the biggest global players and are finding themselves at the back of the queue.
Although many of the businesses around the table said they had healthy order books, there was frustration that they know they couldn’t meet those orders for some time. I fear it will be a couple of years before this problem unwinds.