Re-sourcing food may not solve no-deal disruption

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Different types of fruit and vegetables
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If a no-deal Brexit does delay food supplies from the UK's ports, how else could the country bring in produce?

Former Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King says food could be flown in but that wouldn't work for large volumes of products. Therefore, it may be better to re-source certain types of food from other places.

"Ultimately, if one takes the medium-term view that re-sourcing will be part of the solution, that might mean that more is produced in the UK. But if we're talking salad in the winter, that means polytunnels and greenhouses that don't currently exist and often quite significant planning issues," he says.

"So there is not easy short-term solution to this kind of blockade."

He says that when he was at Sainsbury's, the supermarket chain succeeded in sourcing locally-grown tomatoes and chilli peppers, but still, it wasn't able to source enough of the food in order to be able to stop importing the items from other places.

Brexit 'couldn't come at a worse time' for UK food supplies

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

A woman holding a basket of food in a supermarket
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Will food supplies be as badly affected as the leaked Operation Yellowhammer dossier predicts?

Justin King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury's who campaigned for a second referendum, reckons they will be - not least because the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union in October.

"It is tougher in October, no doubt," he tells the Today programme. "There's no flexibility to store, to stockpile, because the food supply chain is already stockpiled in advance of Christmas, as indeed is the case with many other supply chains too.

"So there's no realistic prospect of things like ambient food and frozen food. And [with] fresh food, you're on the cusp of winter and sourcing is shifting overseas at that time of year.

"So it probably couldn't come at a worse time."

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(Picture: Woman eating a hamburger. Credit: Getty Images)