The Government recently released its No Deal Readiness report, which, alongside a host of other directives, assures food manufacturers that there will be no shortage of supplies or drops in standards.
However, a seeming lack of genuine substance within the report and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the 31 October deadline have left many industry insiders questioning the effect it will have on businesses.
“Some £100m has been spent on an utterly worthless media campaign so that the Government can claim to have made the necessary preparations,” Rollits corporate finance director Julian Wild told Food Manufacture. “Well they haven’t.”
“It’s the sort of propaganda that we’ve had for the last three years and is total wishful thinking, which hasn’t been supported by any of the major food manufacturers or retailers.”
“Nobody in their right mind thinks that ‘no-deal’ is anything other than a complete disaster.”
Wild expressed concern that no-deal would lead to an immediate shortage of fresh produce, impacting then on a wide range of chilled and frozen convenience foods – despite the Government’s assurances
“There may be a certain level of stockpiling of frozen food, but it wouldn’t be long before that was also affected,” he added.
“As for farmers and the fishing community, who do any amount of exporting (such as the shellfish industry around here), they might as well sign on at the dole office.”
Farmers and beef producers have already been extremely vocal about the possibility of a no-deal outcome, yesterday telling a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee that “a tsunami effect” would be in the offing.
Particular concern exists around the uncertainty surrounding tariffs following the expected departure. Tariffs on food would bump up prices by 10% in a no-deal Brexit and would be detrimental to all but the most prepared food businesses, warned Labour’s Lord Jeffrey Rooker in April.
“The more we have looked at it, the proposed tariffs that are on the table will not see us back here in four years, we’ll be back here in four months because the potential impact on this industry is even more than the crisis we are already seeing,” said Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association.
“There could be a differential of £6 a kilo on steak meat,” added Tom Kirwan, managing director. “That’s a destruction of value of nearly £120 a head. That is the scale of the challenge that meat coming in tariff-free into the UK will have on domestic production. And that is something processors cannot mitigate against.”
Last month, the Government was accused of trying to “soften up” the public for lower food standards post-Brexit after one of its chief scientific advisers claimed imports of chlorinated chicken and beef reared with artificial hormones should be decided by “consumer choice.”