Food shortages caused by Brexit could lead to people being forced to eat “tons of British leeks”, a supermarket boss has said.
Industry experts have repeatedly warned that if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal in place there will be an increase in food prices and a shortage of fresh produce.
As 29 March – the date the UK is expected depart from the EU – fast approaches, supermarkets are stockpiling products and testing new routes to cope with expected disruption at the borders.
Britain imports around half of its food with most entering on lorries through Dover, so any potential logjams are likely to have a significant effect.
An executive at one of Britain’s four major supermarket groups, who declined to be named, said it was not necessarily possible to source all the required food from the UK.
“People just say we’ll eat more British produce but…would people be happy to start eating tones of British leeks? I’m not sure,” he said.
“We know from our members that they are investing staggering sums into getting ready for the worst possible no-deal scenario. The sums are so large that manufacturers need to pass it on to their customers, the retailers.”
Tesco chairman John Allan said the supermarket was stockpiling goods with a long shelf life but there were limited options for fresh produce.
“So provided we’re all happy to live on Spam and canned peaches all will be well,” he added.
The latest comments come as officials warned the government needed to “get its act together” to prevent panic-buying and civil unrest over Brexit.
Fiona Twycross, chair of the London Resilience Forum, said people would stockpile food, fuel and other supplies because of the uncertainty.
“The government might tell people not do it but as soon as they can give people some certainty the better,” she told the London Assembly EU Exit Working Group.
“This is an issue government needs to sort out, they need to get their act together so that people don’t take what in some instances could be seen to be a very rational decision.”