Mike Coupe has spoken out about the potential dangers to fresh produce supply if heavy customs and checks at border controls are implemented once the UK has left the EU.
Following on from last week’s British Retail Consortium’s warning that fruit and veg shortages could become a regular occurrence, alongside price hikes, the Sainsbury’s chief executive has now publically waded into the Brexit customs debate.
Speaking to the Press Association, Coupe said how “detrimental” border disruptions could adversely impact the food supply chain and how the retail industry will continue to push for alternative scenarios to avoid shortages, price increase and quality issues unless the government comes up with a resolution as part of exit talks.
“The UK sources roughly a third of its food from the European Union and food is by far and away the UK’s largest export,” he said.
“If you take our fresh produce supply chains, for example, we put things on a lorry in Spain and it will arrive in a distribution centre somewhere in England, and it won’t have gone through any border checks.
“Anything that encumbers that has two effects: it adds cost, and it also has a detrimental effect on freshness – if you’re shipping fresh produce from a long distance, even a few hours of delay can make a material impact.”
Despite major lobbying from the fresh produce sectors, retail industry and others, the stark warnings about supply chain disruption, particularly at borders like ports, are not being fully recognised by the government, added Coupe.
He also said that as the clock counts down to the official Brexit date of March 2019, retailers and others will strongly be making this point to government officials.