Britain may face food shortages post-Brexit, Tesco chairman warns

John Allan, chairman of Britain’s largest supermarket, Tesco, has warned there could be short-term shortages of some fresh food when the transition period for Britain’s departure from the European Union ends in January.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that if there is dislocation at the ports of entry to the UK there will be some shortages of some items of fresh food, at least for a short time,” Mr Allan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television Friday.

He said he expects any disruptions to “normalise quickly” and there is no need for consumers to panic or stockpile.

“The nation’s supply chain for food will continue but there may be some things we have to learn to live with out for a few weeks, possibly a few months,” he said.

Mr Allan, who is also vice-president of the Confederation of British Industry, said that the prospect of difficulties at entry points is happening at the “worst possible time for the food industry.” Britain’s departure from the single market and customs union follows the busy Christmas period, when grocers’ warehouses are full with festive products and there is “very little spare capacity to build stock.”

He said that Tesco and Britain’s other grocers were all working very hard to create “maximum possible inventory” to help mitigate any potential dislocation in January.

Britain’s retail industry has been pushing the government to reach a deal with the EU, the country’s biggest trading partner. According to the British Retail Consortium, the industry body, about 80 per cent of imported food sold in supermarkets comes from the bloc.

Updated: October 16, 2020 04:28 PM