Sunday 25 August 2019

UK retailers warn of fresh food shortages in case of no-deal exit


Supplies: Items such as toilet paper and pasta have been stockpiled
Supplies: Items such as toilet paper and pasta have been stockpiled
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Britain will experience shortages of some fresh foods for weeks or even months if a disorderly no-deal Brexit leaves perishable produce rotting in lorries at ports, Britain's food and drink lobby has warned.

Retailers such as Tesco have warned that leaving the European Union on October 31 without a transition deal would be problematic as so much fresh produce is imported and warehouses are stocked full ahead of Christmas.

The industry - which employs 450,000 people in the UK - views Brexit as the biggest challenge since World War II, dwarfing previous crises such as the horse meat scandal of 2013 and the mad cow disease outbreaks of the 1980s and 1990s.

"We're not going to starve but there will be shortages of fresh food and some specialist ingredients. It's going to be a little bit unpredictable," the UK Food and Drink Federation's chief operating officer, Tim Rycroft, said.

"Given that food very often is perishable and has a short shelf-life, we expect that there will be some selective shortages of food in the weeks and months following a no-deal Brexit.

"There will be some shortages and price rises."

Ahead of the original Brexit deadline of March 29, supermarkets and retailers spent millions of pounds preparing for Brexit and working with suppliers to increase stocks of dried goods including pasta, bottled water and toilet paper.

As winter approaches, the United Kingdom becomes more dependent on imported food so a Halloween no-deal Brexit is potentially more disruptive.

Britain imports around 60pc of its food by the beginning of November - just the time that delays caused by a no-deal Brexit could be clogging up ports and motorways.

Michael Gove, the British minister responsible for no-deal preparations, said he was confident that a resilient food supply system would ensure people would have "a wide range and the choices that they need" whatever happened.

Irish Independent

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