Fresh fruit and vegetables are among the products likely to become scarcer and more expensive after a no-deal Brexit, according to several retailers. Department store chain John Lewis and the Co-op supermarket said customers’ weekly shop could be disrupted, amid concerns that retailers will have to fly in supplies if the chaos predicted in leaked government documents becomes a reality.
Defra refuses to give details on no-deal Brexit food supply disruptions. Co-op chief executive, Steve Murrells, is particularly worried about fruit because he expects prices to increase.
Murrells said the convenience chain was attempting to mitigate the potential impact by stockpiling long-life products such as water, toilet paper and canned goods but was struggling to manage logistics for fruit such as blueberries, apples and pears, which are imported during the British winter.
“We think there will be shortages in some fresh food areas,” he said. “Where that is the case, we would endeavour to bring it in to give our customers a choice.”
Commenting on the newly released Yellowhammer documents, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The Yellowhammer document confirms what retailers have been saying for the last three years – fresh food availability will decrease, consumer choice will decrease, and prices will rise. This isn’t good for the British public and this isn’t good for British retailers.”
“A no deal Brexit in November represents the worst possible timing for the retail industry and the consumers it serves. Warehousing availability will be limited as retailers prepare for Black Friday and Christmas, many fresh fruit and vegetables will be out of season in the UK, and imports will be hampered by disruption through the Channel Straits that could reduce flow by up to 60% for up to three months.”
The availability of vegetables in Britain is also at risk as the European Union provides some 86% of lettuces and 70% of tomatoes, according to the British Retail Consortium.
“While retailers are doing all they can to prepare for a no deal Brexit, it is impossible to completely mitigate the negative impact it would have - something the Government itself has acknowledged. The fact remains that a damaging, no deal Brexit is in no one’s interests and it is vital that a solution is found, and fast, that ensures frictionless tariff-free trade with the EU after our departure.”
Supermarket group Sainsbury’s
Chief executive of supermarket group Sainsbury’s, Mike Coup, said on Friday that a no-deal Brexit would “inevitably disrupt” fresh food supplies in Britain because delays at ports would throw just-in-time deliveries into chaos,
Mike Coupe stated that the Oct. 31 Brexit date could not come at a worst time for supermarkets because warehouses were already full with Christmas produce and more of the supply of fresh salad had switched to southern Europe.
Asked if plans were in place that meant disruption to food supplies could be ruled out, Coupe told BBC radio : “I disagree with that wholeheartedly, the reality is there will inevitably be disruption, simply because we’ve never done this before.”