A huge opportunity is on the cards for the Port of Boston as the UK leaves the EU.
An ambitious plan to make this town one of the major food ports in the UK has been backed by members of the borough council with the project fitting in perfectly with the Town Deal’s proposal for a Centre for Food and Fresh Produce logistics to set up in Boston.
Financial support from the Transformation Fund of not more than £20,000 has been approved as the Council’s contribution towards the Midlands Connect Feasibility Study and a budget of £30,000 allocated for the purpose of supporting ongoing project development.
Boston’s economic development manager, Clive Gibbon said: “The Port of Boston is ideally placed with its proximity to the “Free Port” of Rotterdam and the Port of Amsterdam to become the food port of the UK.
“Creating a sector driven asset would not only be of importance to the local and regional economies, but also have real international significance to nurture and facilitate greater imports and exports, stimulating sector growth opportunities and inward investment within the food production sector.”
As the UK continues to import 65 per cent of the fresh produce it consumes, the area could grab a bigger share of the food trade market amid concerns about capacity and congestion at other UK ports which may get worse after the UK leaves the EU.
A new border control post 14 miles away in Spalding would ensure goods were checked through quickly for processing and packaging in Boston and South Holland and then transported from Lincolnshire by road and rail to supermarkets around the UK.
The move would protect 40,000 local food and logistics sector jobs and attract future investment.
There would also be opportunities for Lincolnshire businesses to export goods on ships returning to the Continent.
Overall 75 per cent of UK food and drink import and exports are with the EU and most with states clustered around the North Sea, which are easily accessible from Boston.
Clive also said the plan was also about securing jobs for the future.
He said: “We are mindful of how we can keep hold of businesses that have created several thousands of jobs and keep them here and attract new investors here to create even more jobs.
“There are around 40,000-plus jobs in the food produce and logistics sector in Boston and Spalding.
“If we can lean on that with those businesses, we will be safeguarding 40,000 jobs. A lot of it is around retaining our businesses.”
The Lincolnshire food sector processes millions of tonnes of imports each year from more than 39 countries worldwide.
Boston already has a proposal to set up a Centre for Food and Fresh Produce logistics as part of the Government’s Town Deal regeneration scheme.
But during talks with fresh produce supply chains, importers, the Fresh Produce Network, Boston College and the University of Lincoln, it became clear that a wider project could be considered, given the volumes of imported perishable goods that arrive into south Lincolnshire and the clustering of food production locally.