Food retailers warn of disruption, higher costs if no-deal Brexit

Grocers like Sainsbury's signed a letter sent to Britain's House of Commons warning of food supply shortages if they can't reach a Brexit deal. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Jan. 29 (UPI) — A coalition of food retailers warned the British government on Monday that a no-deal Brexit could cause a “significant disruption” in food supply chains.

Chief executives at grocery chains like Sainsbury’s, Asda and Marks & Spencer sent a letter to the House of Commons urging members of Parliament to come to an agreement on Britain’s departure from the European Union. The British Retail Consortium backed the missive.

“While we have been working closely with our suppliers on contingency plans it is not possible to mitigate all the risks to our supply chains and we fear significant disruption in the short term as a result if there is no Brexit deal,” the letter said.

The group, which included McDonald’s and KFC, said nearly one-third of food eaten in Britain comes from the EU. For some food items during off-season months, that number is higher — 90 percent of lettuces, 80 percent of tomatoes and 70 percent of soft fruit comes from the EU in March.

The letter said France has said it will enforce customs checks at the border, potentially causing long delays. The retailers cite government data that says freight trade between Calais, France, and Dover, England, could be reduced by 87 percent against current levels, reducing availability and shelf life of some food items.

Meanwhile, tariffs are expected to increase import costs on food.

The retailers said they are attempting to stockpile some foods when possible, but there is little warehousing space available and fresh foods have limited shelf life.

“We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no deal Brexit. We anticipate significant risks to maintaining the choice, quality and durability of food that our customers have come to expect in our stores, and there will be inevitable pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs,” the letter said.


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