Brexit becoming '˜stuff of nightmares' warns food chief

A food industry boss has called for a meeting with the Government as he warned that Brexit is becoming 'the stuff of nightmares'.

Wednesday, 1st August 2018, 9:25 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 2:52 am
The industry is taking the potential threat to supplies seriously

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief executive Ian Wright urged ministers to explain the implications of a no-deal Brexit to businesses in the industry.

He told the i newspaper: “Brexit is shaping up to be the stuff of nightmares and it’s essential the Government begins to explain a) to businesses and b) the public exactly what the implications of a no-deal Brexit are.”

He added that, despite Government plans to issue notices to advise shoppers and businesses about the “arrangements and difficulties of Brexit”, ministers would be “better informed” if they sought the expertise of industry workers.

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Speculation around stockpiling has been mounting in recent days following suggestions from ministers that it would be a “sensible” thing for the Government to do.

Mr Wright last week called for a meeting with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab “at the earliest opportunity” in response to comments he made to the Brexit Select Committee, where he suggested it would be up to suppliers to stockpile food in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Raab said it would be “wrong” to suggest that the Government would be responsible for amassing large amounts of supplies.

But he said it would take steps to ensure “adequate food supply”.

An FDF spokesman said Mr Raab had not yet responded to Mr Wright.

Michael Bell, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association said: “Northern Ireland is uniquely affected by Brexit, so there are differences between how Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain could be impacted. While England imports 40% of its food, we export 80%.

“Nonetheless, the FDF is correct to be concerned about potential disruption to the supply of perishable foods in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

“Food is a fast industry. The supply chain relies on just-in-time production and delivery, so the system is highly sensitive to delays. In an industry where many products have a shelf life of only six days, and where retail customers require delivery within one-hour time slots, any delay would result in a significant amount of waste and expense.

“We have met with a number of senior government Ministers in recent weeks and have stressed the need for continued engagement with the industry, and the provision of advice to both suppliers and the end consumer.”

Another industry boss this week warned that a no-deal Brexit would limit supplies to shoppers.

Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich & Food to Go Association said: “We live in a just-in-time world. We don’t stockpile ingredients.”