Food For Thought – Food supply chain contractual considerations
16 December 2020
This is the first in a three-part series looking at key clauses to consider in standard contracts for the supply of food as a result of Brexit and COVID-19.
The series will cover:
- Brexit renegotiation and termination clauses
- material adverse change clauses; and
- force majeure clauses.
First, we will consider Brexit renegotiation and termination clauses. Brexit has brought widespread uncertainty to all businesses and especially to those in the food sector who import and export produce.
In general, the implications of Brexit on food supply contracts are likely to impact the labelling of goods (including CE Marks), price changes (which may be driven by supply and demand), increased haulage costs, import and export licences, tariffs, changes in VAT rules, new customs process and procedures.
A Brexit clause changes the parties’ obligations as a result of a specific event related to Brexit occurring (the Trigger Event). The Trigger Event will depend on the particular situation but in the case of food supply, could relate to: (i) the imposition of tariffs; (ii) a change in regulatory requirements; and/or (iii) a party’s costs increasing (short supply of a particular food product).
A Brexit clause typically has the following structure:
- the Trigger Event
- a right for the affected party to request renegotiation of the contract; and
- if no variation can be agreed, the right for the affected party to terminate the contract.
Before suggesting a Brexit clause is included in standard contracts, consideration will need to be given as to how the clause may affect the parties’ performance and costs. In the event of a Trigger Event, the unaffected party will have the choice of accepting less favourable terms or early termination which is not likely to be in a supplier’s best interests.
Due to the uncertainty of Brexit, now is the ideal time to update your standard contracts and consider whether a Brexit clause should be included. If you would like to discuss this article further and/or have your standard contracts reviewed or amended please contact Jack Shreeve.
This article is from the winter 2020 issue of Food for Thought, our newsletter for those working within the food and drink industries. For further information please contact Jack Shreeve or a member of Birketts’ Food Team. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2020.