Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe has issued a stark warning that post-Brexit customs agreements could leave swathes of fresh produce to rot at the border.
Coupe has become the latest high profile voice in retail to speak out against strict customs controls after the UK leaves the EU, stating that disrupting established supply chains by just hours could have a negative impact.
“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 told the Press Association.
“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.”
Coupe joins the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in condemning increased customs controls after Brexit, having warned last week that prices could skyrocket even further should food deliveries be delayed at the border.
Both Coupe and the BRC have been critical of the government, stating that the repercussions of disrupting supply chains in the UK are “not fully recognised”.
Coupe added that the retail sector was poised to “make that point very strongly” if a solution has not been found before the divorce date approaches.
Elsewhere, the Sainsbury’s boss said that inflation was likely to remain stable and that it was nowhere near the levels of the last financial crisis.
“The lines have already crossed between inflation and income,” he said.
“We’re not in the mother of all meltdowns that we saw in 2008/09, where literally in two or three months we saw consumer spending drop off a cliff.
“But you would be naive if you’re saying it’s all going to be a bed of roses for the next year to 18 months because there is a squeeze on consumer incomes coming down the track.”