The ex CEO of Sainsbury’s has sent stark warning about the food supply chain as the government toughens its rhetoric around no-deal Brexit.
Justin King, former CEO of Sainsbury’s and food director at Marks and Spencer, said there will be “gaps on the shelves within a week” if there is no deal in place by Halloween.
“The government’s expectation is that something like 50 per cent of lorries will not pass smoothly through the border,” he told BBC’s Newsnight.
“Supermarkets will do whatever they can to cope with the disruption,” he added. “But let’s be clear – there’s about 10 days of [fresh] food in the UK in total.
“The kind of disruption that the government is talking about today … will lead to gaps on the shelves within a week in the UK. Significant gaps.
“Because something between 30 and 40 per cent of our produce at that time of the year is coming from the European Union.”
“There’s about 10 days of food in total. The kind of disruption the government is talking about today… will lead to gaps on the shelves within a week.”— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) August 7, 2019
Former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King tells @Emmabarnett why he thinks we should be worried about a no-deal Brexit pic.twitter.com/pyskbiu10S
King is one of several expert voices warning that the government must take further action to prevent the harshest effects of no-deal.
Up to 45,000 cows in Northern Ireland may have to be culled due to tariffs on milk at the Irish border.
Meanwhile, food expert prof Tim Lang suggested that the government may have to drop its own public health advice on eating fresh fruit and vegetables because the disruption might cause a severe lack of availability.
“Of course the industry will innovate in the longer term to solve the problem,” said King.
But in the shorter term, the government’s planned £2.1 billion of no-deal preparations spending would not fully address the fundamental supply chain issues.
“You can’t ‘cope’ if the product isn’t in the UK,” he said.