Posted: 11/09/2019

Importers’ concerns grow as no-deal Brexit looks more likely

The arrival of Boris Johnson as the new prime minister has brought with it an increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit

The speciality food industry has been weighing up its import options since new prime minister Boris Johnson started talking up prospects of a no-deal Brexit.

Many in the industry believe the absence of a deal will hike prices and create shortages and disruption.

Tim Rycroft, chief operating office of the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), told Talk Radio that disruption at ports would lead to shortages – particularly fresh food – for the weeks and months after a no-deal Brexit, and also random shortages of other foods.

Kate Shirley-Quirk, director of Spanish food specialist Delicioso UK, said her company had stockpiled for the previous Brexit deadline of 29th March before its extension until 31st October. 

“The good thing is if it is going to be the end of October, we will have most of our stock in for Christmas at that stage,” she told FFD. “It’s not likely we will need a lot more stock in November/December so there’s a little bit of time to allow the chaos to settle.”

Pricing could be an issue, she said, because of uncertainty around the pound. “We try hard not to increase our prices for our customers but if the pound bottoms out we have no choice.”

Seggiano’s David Harrison said he could not do much because Italians were not back from holiday until the last week of August when he would look at his Christmas ordering.

“Stockpiling is difficult because we don’t have the cash flow,” he said. “Cash flow is already difficult with the severely weakening pound and we don’t have the space anyway. Quite honestly we are right in the shit here.” 

Stefano Cuomo, Macknade Fine Foods managing director, said the Kent retailer worked with a good transport agency which had been updating him about what it would need to do to import goods.

“We would be looking to refine our offer, really focussing on the experience and the quality of the produce we’ve got.”

Cuomo said he was more concerned about the likelihood of a recession and whether people wanted to buy items, as opposed to whether it had the product to stock.  

“As an SME, the last thing you want to be doing is throwing a whole load of money into stock.” 

The latest FDF Business Confidence Report covering 20th June-20th July, shows Brexit-related costs continue to pose a threat, with 47% reporting increased costs of stockpiling and 39% a decline in warehousing availability.

This story appeared in the September issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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