UK delivery prices jump ahead of Brexit cliff edge as firms rush to stockpile

UK businesses are scrambling to avoid potential disruption in January, leaving customs agents overwhelmed (.AFP)
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Updated 27 November 2020

UK delivery prices jump ahead of Brexit cliff edge as firms rush to stockpile

LONDON: British businesses are rushing to stockpile goods just five weeks before post-Brexit customs checks come into force on Jan. 1, driving up the cost of cross-border deliveries and cutting capacity, industry sources said.

Logistics companies told Reuters they have seen a surge in demand to bring goods into the country before any potential disruption in January, and customs agents report being overwhelmed by pleas for help from traders navigating new rules for the first time.

“We have told our customers that the best thing you can do now is stock up, stockpile, and they’re bringing in as much as they can,” Jon Swallow, director of Jordon Freight, told Reuters.

“The consequence of that is there’s simply not enough capacity and the prices are going through the roof.”

Swallow said the increased demand had pushed prices up by around 20 percent in recent weeks and would likely rise further in December.

Freight specialist Tony Shally said his Espace Europe had seen the cost of journeys between Poland and England, and France and England, rise by more than 10 percent.

The frantic activity reflects the need to get ready for Britain’s departure from the world’s biggest trading bloc, which will spark a need for customs and safety declarations, and some checks, when goods move into the EU after Dec. 31.

Companies had stockpiled goods before previous Brexit deadlines but many are in a weaker financial position now after the pandemic hammered their cash flow.

Among the recent rush to bring in goods, companies are also having to prepare to deal with customs declarations for the first time, putting huge pressure on the small customs sector.

Sam Harris, operations manager at Freight UK, said it had become a full time job just to answer the phone to new customers. “Most know nothing about customs,” he said. “Everyone is panicking.”

“We had a farmer on the phone and he had no idea whatsoever about what needed to be done.”


China economy grows in 2020 as rebound from coronavirus gains

Updated 18 January 2021

China economy grows in 2020 as rebound from coronavirus gains

  • Growth in the three months ending in December rose to 6.5 percent over a year earlier
  • China’s quick recovery brought it closer to matching the US in economic output

BEIJING: China eked out 2.3 percent economic growth in 2020, likely becoming the only major economy to expand as shops and factories reopened relatively early from a shutdown to fight the coronavirus while the United States, Japan and Europe struggled with rising infections.
Growth in the three months ending in December rose to 6.5 percent over a year earlier as consumers returned to shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas, official data showed Monday. That was up from the previous quarter’s 4.9 percent and stronger than many forecasters expected.
In early 2020, activity contracted by 6.8 percent in the first quarter as the ruling Communist Party took the then-unprecedented step of shutting down most of its economy to fight the virus. The following quarter, China became the first major country to grow again with a 3.2 percent expansion after the party declared victory over the virus in March and allowed factories, shops and offices to reopen.
Restaurants are filling up while cinemas and retailers struggle to lure customers back. Crowds are thin at shopping malls, where guards check visitors for signs of the disease’s tell-tale fever.
Domestic tourism is reviving, though authorities have urged the public to stay home during the Lunar New Year holiday in February, normally the busiest travel season, in response to a spate of new infections in some Chinese cities.
Exports have been boosted by demand for Chinese-made masks and other medical goods.
The growing momentum “reflected improving private consumption expenditure as well as buoyant net exports,” said Rajiv Biswas of IHS Markit in a report. He said China is likely to be the only major economy to grow in 2020 while developed countries and most major emerging markets were in recession.
The economy “recovered steadily” and “living standards were ensured forcefully,” the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement. It said the ruling party’s development goals were “accomplished better than expectation” but gave no details.
2020 was China’s weakest growth in decades and below 1990’s 3.9 percent following the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, which led to China’s international isolation.
Despite growth for the year, “it is too early to conclude that this is a full recovery,” said Iris Pang of ING in a report. “External demand has not yet fully recovered. This is a big hurdle.”
Exporters and high-tech manufacturers face uncertainty about how President-elect Joseph Biden will handle conflicts with Beijing over trade, technology and security. His predecessor, Donald Trump, hurt exporters by hiking tariffs on Chinese goods and manufacturers including telecom equipment giant Huawei by imposing curbs on access to US components and technology.
“We expect the newly elected US government will continue most of the current policies on China, at least for the first quarter,” Pang said.
The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters expect economic growth to rise further this year to above 8 percent.
China’s quick recovery brought it closer to matching the United States in economic output.
Total activity in 2020 was 102 trillion yuan ($15.6 trillion), according to the government. That is about 75 percent the size of the $20.8 trillion forecast by the IMF for the US economy, which is expected to shrink by 4.3 percent from 2019. The IMF estimates China will be about 90 percent of the size of the US economy by 2025, though with more than four times as many people average income will be lower.
Exports rose 3.6 percent last year despite the tariff war with Washington. Exporters took market share from foreign competitors that still faced anti-virus restrictions.
Retail spending contracted by 3.9 percent over 2019 but gained 4.6 percent in December over a year earlier as demand revived. Consumer spending recovered to above the previous year’s levels in the quarter ending in September.
Online sales of consumer goods rose 14.8 percent as millions of families who were ordered to stay home shifted to buying groceries and clothing on the Internet.
Factory output rose 2.8 percent over 2019. Activity accelerated toward the end of the year. Production rose 7.3 percent in December.
Despite travel controls imposed for some areas after new cases flared this month most of the country is unaffected.
Still, the government’s appeal to the public to avoid traditional Lunar New Year gatherings and travel might dent spending on tourism, gifts and restaurants.
Other activity might increase, however, if farms, factories and traders keep operating over the holiday, said Chaoping Zhu of JP Morgan Asset Management in a report.
“Unusually high growth rates in this quarter are likely to be seen,” said Zhu.