There are thought to be 20 to 30 key importers of smoked fish in the UK, all are based in London. These include: CA Foods, Fovitor International, BIMS African Food Store. These regular importers typically deal in a variety of African foodstuffs such as gari, fufu, vegetables and palm oil. There are also a large number of small-scale importers who bring smoked fish and other products in as airfreight on an ad hoc basis. These are not seen as regular importers.
British Airways, Swiss Air, Sabena, Alitalia, KLM and Ghana Airways all carry smoked fish as airfreight.
Smoked fish arrive packaged in cardboard or polystyrene boxes. Each box contains between 12 - 25 kg of smoked fish. Boxes of herring are typically around 10 kg. Figure 5 shows typical packing of foodstuffs into air cargo containers. Figure 6 shows a consignment of smoked fish from Ghana recently arrived at Gatwick Airport.
Figure 5: Foodstuffs waiting for inspection
Figure 6: Smoked fish from Ghana
After arrival at the airport the boxes are taken to the customs shed for inspection by customs and the Port Health authority (see Sanitary Controls).
Consignments are either cleared by agents through Customs and Port Health, or by the importer themselves, usually within 24 hours of arrival in the UK, unless Customs or Port Health identify any problems and detain the consignment. The main clearing agent for smoked fish arriving into Heathrow is Air Marine Ltd and at Gatwick the main agent is Kingscoat. Once cleared by an environmental health officer from Port Health, the consignment can be shipped to any other EU country without undergoing another port health inspection. Hence some smoked fish arrives in the UK by air after having been cleared by port health in another EU country, e.g. Belgium.
Assuming the consignment is not detained it will be released to the importer. He or she will collect the fish from the airport and store it, releasing it to retailers as required. The fish will remain in storage for an average of two weeks. The store where it is kept is typically not temperature controlled. The fish is delivered to retailers by the importer using a van. Some importers also re-export smoked fish wholesale to mainland Europe (France, Belgium).