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WSTA Summit: Lord Holmes urges govt to embrace blockchain over VI1s

Published:  16 September, 2020

Panellists at the Wine and Spirits Trade Association Trust’s (WSTA) second summit session advocated for government support on traceable technology for the movement of goods – while dropping plans for costly and time consuming paper VI1 forms.

The merits of blockchain, sometimes referred to as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), were put forward by Lord Holmes at the session.

Holmes described DTL as “the most fantastic database” where everybody along the supply chain can view information about the product in real time.

He said: “It shouldn’t be that when a wagon turns up to pick up a consignment, there needs to be a bunch of paper and/or any delay at all. Everything should be known way before that truck has even left its base, never mind arriving at the warehouse.

“We have the opportunity to be a 21st century global trading nation with technology and a border which is the envy of the world. But none of this will happen as a matter of chance. We need a dramatic transformation.”

Holmes has been a vocal advocate of the merits of DTL for some time. In 2017, he took part in the penning of a report that aimed to set out key areas where DLT could enable increased safety and security, transparency, traceability, trust and reduce costs for public sectors.

Wine was used as a guinea pig, tracing shipments from Australia all the way through to the HMRC offices in London.

WSTA chief executive, Mile Beale, said it was ironic that such technologies are emerging at a time when the government and Defra in particular are insisting on moving to VI1 forms for wine coming from the EU, “which of course is over half of what we import”.

As Beale mentioned in his opening address this morning, these are paper forms which are expected to cause backlogs at ports and dissuade both importers and merchants from bringing in small parcels to the UK while chalking up around £100m in additional costs.

Russell Davies, managing director UK and Ireland, Hillebrand Global Beverage Logistics, added: “The big challenge is that 55% of the volume of wine coming into the UK is going to come from the EU and it’s going to meet with archaic processes, where we're just throwing an additional cost in and putting extra processes into place.

“It’s even more critical with what’s coming around the corner that we give ourselves from producers, all the way through to wholesale or retail or HMRC, that visibility immediately.”

Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE, is Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer and an advocate for the potential of technology alongside the benefits of diversity and inclusion.

He calls DLT one of the premiere technologies of the “4th Industrial Revolution” – the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices using modern smart technology.