The costs of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products could soar amid shortages if there is no-deal Brexit, a former Waitrose chief warned today.
Lord Price said the government would find it ‘incredibly difficult’ to stockpile some types of food if it crashes out of the EU.
The peer, also a former trade minister, said existing import routes for fresh products would be badly hit. Shops would impose ‘significant’ hikes to cover higher transport costs as well as lack of supplies driving up prices, he said.
Meanwhile, French minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau insisted Britain would be worse hit than the EU if there was no deal, with queues at ports .
The warnings came after ministers suggested plans are being made to stockpile food and medicine to ensure Britain has enough if there is a disorderly departure.
Lord Price said while food stored in bottles, packets and tins were straightforward, the same was not true for fresh produce (stock image)
Theresa May, pictured at the Royal Welsh Show today, has insisted people should take ‘comfort’ from planning for a no deal Brexit
Theresa May insisted yesterday that people should ‘take comfort’ from the dramatic government warnings on ‘no deal’ Brexit.
She said was confident an agreement would be reached, but it was ‘right’ for the authorities to be prepared for every possible outcome.
However, Lord Price, who was managing director of Waitrose, warned that many food products could not be effectively stockpiled.
He said while food stored in bottles, packets and tins were straightforward, the same was not true for fresh produce.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The area that we are most vulnerable in is fruit and veg.
‘We only produce in this country about 25 per cent of the fruit and veg we consume – on fruit 30 per cent comes from Europe, the rest comes from around the world, but on vegetables 80 per cent comes from Europe and particularly Spain’s salad crops.’
Lord Price added that while the winter season for imports from places like South America and New Zealand could be extended slightly to cover March’s departure, supermarkets would have to find new supply routes.
He said: ‘They may think about air freight, they may think about shipping. But all these things are going to add cost and they are going to add to the cost of a tariff that will be applied because the EU has pretty penal tariffs on food, to protect European farmers.
‘What you will see is rather than a pinch on supply – although that is highly likely – is a pretty significant increase in the cost of fruit and veg, the cost of meat and the cost of dairy products.’
Ms Loiseau said a no-deal Brexit would slow down trade relations between the UK and France, Belgium, the Netherlands and ‘every entry point to the European Union’.
Asked what it would mean for the Port of Calais, she said: ‘On the day of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union with no deal, we should start with new tariffs (and) controls and that means of course traffic jams in Calais and in each and every European port welcoming goods and people coming from the United Kingdom.’
She said that while the EU did not want the UK to crash out, it would not accept a ‘bad deal’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘I do remember Prime Minister May saying that no-deal was better than a bad deal.
‘It’s among the bad solutions but I should say that no-deal is not as bad as a bad deal for the European Union as well.
‘We would all suffer, the worst would be for the United Kingdom but we get prepared for a no-deal because until now we have seen no significant progress regarding the withdrawal agreement which would relieve us from this concern that there could be a no-deal (exit).’
Lord Price (left) was managing director of Waitrose before serving as trade minister. He said dairy products could be badly hit by the UK crashing out of the EU