A number of the UK businesses have written a letter to the government warning that a no deal brexit could result in food shortages. Bosses from Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Marks & Spencer’s, Co-op, Waitrose, Morrison’s, Pret, KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks all signed the letter which was addressed to MPs. So why did all of these retailers come together to sign this letter, what do they believe will happen?
Well the letter sets out in clear terms that these retailers believe that a no deal brexit would result in “significant disruption” to UK customers. In the letter they comment that a no deal would impact the cost, quality and choice of food offered to customers. That’s because nearly a third of the UK’s food supply is imported from the EU.
The letter highlights that 90% of the UK’s lettuces, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruit come from the EU. Without a deal in place importing goods from the EU could become more difficult and expensive. Thats because a no deal brexit would lead to new tariffs being placed on the UK’s imports, increasing the cost of food for consumers. Due to this, retailers wrote that they “are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no-deal brexit”
What Are Companies Doing?
In recent weeks businesses have begun to stockpile food to help smooth the transition. Ordinarily businesses in the food industry hold around two weeks worth of stock, but many concerned companies are beginning to keep more. One of the UK’s largest food and beverage businesses has been forced to increase their stockpile from two weeks, to around two months in an attempt to prepare for no deal.
The letter warns that this won’t be possible for all businesses: “Prudent businesses we are stockpiling where possible, but all frozen and chilled storage is already being used and there is very little general warehousing space available in the UK”.
They also addressed the issue of preserving fresh foods, commenting “even if there were more space it is impossible to stockpile fresh produce, such as salad leaves and fresh fruit.” The official letter went on to remark “for consumers, this will reduce the availability and shelf life of many products in our stores.”
What Do They Want From The Government?
The letter sent to MPs encourages them to reach an agreement which doesn’t leave the UK without a deal. The letter from the retailers ends by saying “We are therefore asking you to work with your colleagues in Parliament urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no deal Brexit on 29 March and removes these risks for UK consumers.”
The government has said that ministers are working to try and minimise the impact of no deal on supermarkets and restaurants, saying that food will not run out as a result of a no deal. A government spokesman from DEFRA responded saying “The UK has a high level of food security built upon a diverse range of sources including strong domestic production and imports from other countries. This will continue to be the case whether we leave the EU with or without a deal.”
That being said retailers, suppliers and manufacturers are clearly concerned. The UK’s Food and Drink Federation and British Retail Consortium have both issued warnings that a no deal could seriously disrupt their members and the population as a whole.
In the coming days MPs will continue to debate Brexit and make moves to try and prevent a no deal brexit. As with everything brexit it’s hard to anticipate exactly what will happen next, but businesses clearly believe that a no deal could seriously impact them.