Paul Hargreaves: Are you ready for Brexit?
I hope I am wrong but it would appear that many speciality food producers are not prepared for Brexit. There seems to be a certain degree of a ‘head in the sands’ approach by some, understandably to some degree after this year, that they can’t face another trauma after Covid. There are some hoping for a deal in the next few days, but that absolutely won’t make the problem go away.
Whatever happens over this week, products shipped outside the UK must have a label with an EU address on. It seems that less than half of our suppliers are ready for that. Some may think that they only have UK customers and that it doesn’t matter. But if they are supplying wholesalers like us who do a large amount of business in the Republic of Ireland, then they are effectively cutting off some of their revenues. Many small producers also supply hamper companies that distribute all over Europe and beyond, and the same rules apply. Any products not containing an EU address on their labels are likely to be stopped at the border.
Thankfully many suppliers have products that are ‘oven ready’ for Brexit – let’s hope that their over-readiness is better than Bozo’s deal at the last election. There is a further group of suppliers who have EU-ready products but are reserving them for their EU distributors. They seem to be forgetting that in terms of trade that retailers in Ireland (just like Northern Ireland) have a network of suppliers very like mainland UK retailers. There is a real danger, in my opinion, of shops in Ireland being left with half-empty shelves in early 2021.
It makes me wonder too whether food producers have stockpiled ingredients for their 2021 production. Again, whatever happens this week, there are guaranteed to be delays at ports and most of Kent will turn into a lorry park. Ports are already feeling the strain apparently so let’s hope there are plenty of ingredients on their way, but I am concerned that some producers are hoping it won’t be as bad as expected. Deal or no deal, there will be checks on our borders that we haven’t seen in over 40 years. Delays are inevitable and so is an element of chaos.
It's the last thing that any of us need after 2020, but please do not bury your heads in the sand.