Supermarket Fruit Buyer Schools James O'Brien On Truth Of No-Deal Brexit

30 January 2019, 13:17 | Updated: 30 January 2019, 13:20

A fruit and vegetable buyer for a major supermarket told James O'Brien the reality of how food supplies and prices would be affected in a no-deal Brexit - and it's not good news.

John called after becoming frustrated with hearing people dismiss fears over food prices after Brexit, despite having no knowledge of the industry.

Insisting he had no reason to exaggerate the effect of leaving the EU with no agreement, he told James O'Brien just how much supermarkets will be affected.

He said: "Under WTO rules, we'd have to apply tariffs. These are extraordinary at times.

"The salad I buy has a tariff of 10%. We reckon every 1% of trade tariff will cost us £10-15million. Multiply that by 20 and you're looking at £200-300m in tariffs.

"You've then got the impact of weakening exchange rates. During the referendum, the exchange rate tanked and we took massive hits internally. We passed some on to the consumer, but we absorbed some. But there's no way we'd be able to absorb any more.

James O'Brien heard the truth about fruit and vegetables
James O'Brien heard the truth about fruit and vegetables. Picture: PA / LBC

"For every 1% weakening - and it dropped 18% last time - it's going to affect our cost of goods by 0.8%. So if it drops by 10%, you're looking at a 10% cost increase.

"You've then got the problem of availability - and this is a shocker.

"Fruit and vegetables are the fourth priority for the government, so we've been told we will be given 25% availability of our lorries to pass through Dover ports. So from what we have now, we have to quarter what we take in from the EU. That's before we get the gridlock of the remaining 25%.

"We can get them from countries outside the EU, but these all have trade deals with the EU on an Anything But Arms basis. We won't have that."

John had one more concern - this is the worst possible time for these problems. He added: "In April and May, it's when British stocks run out and the British harvest hasn't started. We import almost everything for these two months. It couldn't be worse timing.

"All our stocks of onions, potatoes, carrots, they can run out. So we have to import everything."