UK heatwave to hit food supplies

Industry lobby warns high temperatures could worsen Brexit disruption and hit stockpiling efforts

Wheat preparing to be harvested
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Britain’s record-breaking heatwave is set to restrict food supplies later in the year, just as the government prepares to stockpile food in the even of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, the main industry lobby group, said Britain’s long spell of hot, dry weather would start to affect supplies in the autumn, and that if Britain left the EU next March without a deal, disruption at customs and border crossings would have an impact on food imports.

“We’re going through the most extraordinary summer and we’re already seeing farmers struggling with crops, with feed for ruminants [cattle and sheep],” Wright told BBC radio. “There are vegetable shortages because there hasn’t been enough rain.”

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His warning came a day after the new Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, told MPs the government was putting plans in motion to ensure “adequate food” supplies would continue if Britain crashes out of the EU without a new trade agreement.

About 40% of the food Britons consume is imported, says Reuters, “the vast majority of it from or via the EU.”

Amid continued uncertainty about the state of Brexit negotiations, many businesses will seek to get goods across the border before the 29 March exit date to avoid disruption from customs changes. Some will also plan to buy further in advance so they are less affected by currency fluctuations.

Earlier this year the British Retail Consortium said a no-deal Brexit would clog up food supplies, raise prices and throw retailers out of business. Wright echoed that warning and said a hard Brexit would inevitably lead to some food shortages.

“We saw just a few weeks ago with the carbon dioxide shortage how a random shock event can effect supply and we would see that again,” he said, adding “our shoppers would not see no food but they would see shortages.”

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