The fallout from a no-deal Brexit is a bigger threat to UK food supplies than the coronavirus, academics have claimed.
Experts from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have advised that the price of every day goods could skyrocket if the UK fails to clench a trade deal with the EU by the end of this year.
They warned this could make it more difficult for Britons to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Cesar Revoredo-Giha and Montserrat Costa-Font, from SRUC’s food marketing research team, analysed how Covid-19 has impacted food prices by comparing 20 different fruits and vegetables between March and April this year and the same period last year.
They noted that food imports fell during the coronavirus crisis causing the price of mushrooms and potatoes to rise by more than 10% and the cost of onions to balloon by 26.7%.
‘Whilst Covid-19 has already had an impact on prices and imports, a no-deal Brexit may have far more severe effects on the food chain,’ they said.
The pair said the UK is ‘highly dependent’ on imports of both fruit and vegetables, adding: ‘On vegetables, the UK imports more than half of the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, mushrooms, peppers and lettuce it consumes.
‘Between 75% and 100% of these products were imported from the EU in 2019.
‘This share did not vary much during Covid-19, except in the case of tomatoes and onions, where we do observe a reduction of EU imports during the first quarter of 2020.’
The experts warned that such ‘disruptions’ to supply chains would ‘exert important effects on their price and, potentially, consumption in the UK’.
They said: ‘This can have important effects on the nutrition of the UK population, particularly for those with limited income, hampering any improvement towards the five-a-day goal.’
Figures for across the UK showed that in 2018 just over a quarter (28%) of adults were eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day – with people consuming on average 3.7 portions.
Despite the warnings, the UK government has continuously ruled out extending the Brexit transition period, which is set to end on December 31.