The spate of warnings from farmers, food suppliers, and supermarkets that a no-deal Brexit would prompt food shortages are “realistic,” according to a leading UK food expert.
Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City, University of London, said in an interview with BBC Radio 4 that leaving the EU without a deal— also known as a hard Brexit — has “acutely worried” companies because “the entire system has changed, not just with Europeanisation, but with the logistics revolution.”
The UK government has already told supermarkets to stockpile as much food as possible in warehouses around the country in case of a no-deal Brexit.
On Monday, the bosses of Britain’s biggest supermarkets and popular food outlets warned the public of “inevitable pressure” on food prices and fewer products if a hard Brexit leads to new checks, delays and tariffs at Britain’s borders.
Bosses at Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op, Waitrose, Asda, Costcutter, and Lidl all signed a letter to MPs warning their customers could be “first to experience the realities of a no-deal Brexit.”
The CEOs of McDonald’s, Pret A Manger and KFC in the UK also backed the letter calling for politicians to find an urgent solution, saying it was impossible to stockpile enough goods.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrison’s have also asked their main suppliers to ramp up stock over shortage concerns. Aldi has already considered stockpiling food as part of its preparations for Brexit but CEO Giles Hurley has said that Aldi’s increased fresh food range would make this more difficult.
Lang said that supermarkets had mostly been “very unhappy in private, making very strong representations to the prime minister herself and to MPs, but not speaking publicly because they try to keep out of politics.
“But they are so desperate and so worried now, I think not without reason, that they’ve spoken out.”
Lang said people had “underestimated” how tight supply chains were “completely fundamental to the food industry.”