“We can’t do anything if we can’t get the food into the country.”
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee met last Friday by video conference and took evidence from Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) as part of their inquiry into panic buying in supermarkets in March this year during the covid-19 crisis.
The cross-party committee is also looking at the relationship between food suppliers and retailers, and the rise in food prices seen by consumers. The BRC represents all the major supermarkets with the exception of Tesco.
Mr Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, warned the committee about the consequences of a disorderly Brexit.
“If we thought [covid-19] was a problem I think we should start looking forward to a disorderly Brexit in January. If we get a disorderly Brexit we potentially face a bigger challenge than the food supply chain faced in covid.”
During the pandemic, he said, “we had no problem getting food into this country at anytime, in fact Italy increased its pasta production during its worst time and sent more to us because the borders were flowing.”
“We need an orderly Brexit that allows food to flow, particularly across the Channel straits where I think 90 per cent of our lettuces, 80 per cent of our tomatoes and 70 per cent of our soft fruit comes from in January, otherwise we won’t have the food to move onto our stores.”
Mr Opie praised the workforce in the UK food supply network who he said were “brilliant” but he warned, “We can’t do anything if we can’t get the food into the country.”
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