While the UK is “not going to starve as a nation”, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe warned everyday items that people take for granted could be impacted in the event of Britain leaving the EU without an agreement.
Speaking on Sky’s Ian King Live show, Mr Coupe also criticised the Brexit deadline of 31 October, pointing out it came after the UK growing season had finished and in the run up to Christmas – when the supermarket chain’s distribution centres are “already creaking at the seams”.
Mr Coupe’s comments echo those of Co-op boss Steve Murrells, who told Sky News that a no-deal would leave “gaps on the shelves”.
The warnings come after an ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ government document looking at the worst case scenario of a no-deal Brexit warned some fresh supplies would be reduced.
It also said “critical dependencies for the food chain” such as key ingredients “may be in shorter supply”.
These factors would not lead to overall food shortages “but will reduce the availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups”, it siad.
Asked about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Coupe told Sky’s business presenter Ian King: “It would undoubtedly disrupt our supply chains, particularly the fresh food supply chains.
“The time of year makes that even less helpful because we have moved from the UK growing season into the growing season in southern Europe.
“Of course in the run up to Christmas if you were choosing a date, 31 October isn’t particularly helpful because our distribution centres are already creaking at the seams.
“Whilst there are lots of things that we can do and will do to mitigate the potential impacts there are a lot of things we don’t know about and there will be knock on effects.
“We are not going to starve as a nation, that’s for sure, but things that people take for granted, everyday items, potentially will be impacted by a no-deal Brexit.”
He added: “Take a two-day delay at ports, which is one of the things covered in the Yellowhammer reports, many of the products that we sell in our business only have two days life by the time they get into our stores.
“So clearly if there’s a two-day delay that will create disruption in the supply chain.
“Whilst we will do everything we can to mitigate the risks and will be doing, there is a limit to what you can plan for.
“It will undoubtedly have a knock on impact in some of the fresh food supply chains that we operate.”