Shane Brennan, who took up the post last month, said stockpiling of food is not the way to reduce any disruption caused by the UK’s exit from the EU.
“The stockpiling issue is a red herring. Our food supply chain does not work like that (if it ever did). Food must keep moving, whether it be from raw materials into manufacture or from finished product on to supermarket shelves – movement is the key,” he explained. “What has happened over decades of progress and innovation is that the way we move food has become extremely sophisticated and completely integrated into the production process. Storage makes smooth movement possible, it cannot replace it.
“If hard Brexit leads to significant delays in movements of vehicles carrying food and raw materials through Dover and our other key ports then we will see shortages and production slowdowns. There is no contingency plan that will prevent that from happening, and as far as it can be mitigated the ways to reduce the disruption will not be through extensive stockpiling.”
Brennan also said that businesses have had to take personal responsibility for post-Brexit planning rather than waiting on Government to come up with something.
“There is not one contingency plan for Brexit, but thousands. The Government is talking to industry, of course it is, but it is not calling the shots. Planning for how our food supply chain will work after Brexit, as Dominic Raab said (almost clearly) to Parliament on Tuesday, is being undertaken by business. Every company, farmer, manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler and retailer has to make their own plans for all eventualities. Put another way, logistics IS contingency planning and getting a product to its destination on time and in the right condition having avoided or dealt effectively with barriers and risks along the way, is the job.
Brennan praised the businesses are attempting to come up with contingency plans.
“So, given that still today there is still so much uncertainty, food businesses are doing entirely rational things. They are looking to manage risk and they are examining alternative ways to configure production processes. They are not confident that the storage and distribution capacity they have been able to rely on for many years will be as freely available through Brexit.
“This means a change in the conversations being had by manufacturers and retailers with distributors. Space and capacity in the supply chain will be more valuable and this may mean businesses having to pay more, or requiring manufacturers and retailers to reintroduce contracts with longer terms and better reciprocal terms.”