The UK’s food supply chain is facing huge disruption post Brexit delegates at the Food and Drink Business UK Conference heard today.

Chris Sturman, Chief Executive, Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF) addresses
delegates at the Food and Drink Business UK Conference in Coventry.

Speaking on main stage at the conference, Chris Sturman, Chief Executive of the Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF) informed delegates that unless plans were made clear by Government and HMRC to guarantee frictionless trade, the UK’s food supply chain would face massive disruption.

“Europe has complex supply chains and at the moment, there is no clear plan from Government and shippers will need time to adjust to a new reality. For every hour of delay at customs, there is a £15,000 cost to road haulage and that is not sustainable. We also need to note that most trucks in the UK’s supply chain come from Europe, not the other way around so if they can’t get into Britain, they can go elsewhere.”

With 14,000 trucks crossing the channel there every day, any delays to crossing could result in costly delays and disruption to the UK’s food supply chain. Currently, 28% of the UK’s food supply comes from the EU.

“We need to be assured that customs and non-tariff barriers are removed to facilitate movement of goods as well as a rationalisation of government border controls to avoid delays and costs. It’s not been made clear yet how HMRC will scale up to manage 300m custom declarations either although they have made enormous progress to date. There are a lot of problems to solve and time is running out to solve them.”

The FSDF is the UK’s trade body for the UK Food and Drink Logistics industry which focuses on representing and supporting its 200 members across the UK. The UK exports a total of £230bn of goods and services to the EU while importing £319bn.

Mr. Sturman also highlighted the potential worker and skill shortage in the industry if EU workers are not protected.

“There are approximately 350,000 EU workers supporting the UK’s supply chain that has a current labour shortage of about 50,000 workers. What happens if those EU workers are told to leave? There are difficult political realities to face up to as part of Brexit but the hard realities are: we need to trade and we need to eat. If these problems are not solved, consumers face a dire situation.”

The Food and Drink Business UK Conference took place in the Ricoh Arena, Coventry as uncertainty grows within the food and drink industry as negotiations gather pace in Brussels ahead of Brexit.

The food and drink industry, the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, faces a potential exodus of EU workers, a loss of £3bn in subsidies and the unwinding of over 4,500+ EU regulations and laws that govern the industry.