Supermarkets in Jersey are seriously concerned that Brexit could cause shortages of fresh produce on the island as the parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal approaches.
The island relies heavily on vegetable imports from the UK and local paper Jersey Evening Post has warned that its inhabitants would be affected by disruption to trade and lengthy customs checks in the event of a no deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced today (7 January) that the government will hold a delayed parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on 15 January, with many in the fresh produce industry hoping it passes to avoid further uncertainty and complications after ‘Brexit day’ on 29 March.
Chief executive of Channel Islands Co-op Colin Macleod told the newspaper that the stockpiling of goods was "under active consideration".
“We have been working closely with our supply chain for the last few months endeavouring to understand the potential implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU,” he said.
“We are optimistic that the effects, while they may be challenging, are manageable and we will continue to monitor the evolving negotiations, decisions and implications carefully.
“As it stands we have not made a definite decision to stockpile food, although we are keeping the matter under active consideration.”
However, Tony O’Neill, chief executive of Sandpiper CI, which runs the Morrisons Daily and Marks and Spencer franchises on Jersey, warned that stockpiling would not prevent shortages in fresh produce.
“We are in close contact with all of our food franchise partners who continue to develop plans to mitigate the potential impact of a “no deal” exit,” he told Jersey Evening Post.
“Notwithstanding those embryonic plans, retailers can stockpile all they like but that won’t help the supply of fresh foods, which cannot be stockpiled due to their short shelf-life.”
O’Neill added that the island was “unlikely to be affected to any worse degree than the UK” when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Commenting on the likelihood of shortages, the president of the Jersey Farmers’ Union Peter Le Maitre said local growers should be able to satisfy demand in most vegetables until the autumn if there are supply issues after 29 March.
“There will be plenty of potatoes by the end of April unless we have a terrible frost like we did last year,’ he told Jersey Evening Post.
“And our growers supply a lot of fresh produce to the local markets, so we should be able to provide most vegetables until October.
“It is from October to May that the supermarkets import more produce from abroad, so if things are not sorted out by then, there could be problems.”