The boss of the Co-op has warned that a no-deal Brexit could lead to fresh food shortages and higher prices in supermarkets.
Steve Murrells said the product area he is most worried about is fruit, where he expected prices to surge as retailers may be forced to fly in supplies if the chaos predicted in leaked government documents became a reality.
We think there will be shortages in some fresh food areas. Where that is the case we would endeavour to bring it in to give our customers a choice.
Murrells said the convenience chain was using extra warehouse space to stockpile long-life products such as water, toilet paper and canned goods but the pinch point was fresh food, particularly soft fruits such as blueberries, and also apples and pears, which are imported during the British winter.
The former Tesco executive said it was easier to knit fog than make accurate predictions about the fallout from a disorderly Brexit but its analysis suggested the area of most concern was fruit, with supply chain disruption expected to affect prices.
The question for us is how much of the price increases can we absorb?, said Murrells. How much can we spread that impact over a period of time?
To avoid empty shelves the Co-op said it would resort to using air freight to bring in fruit. The retailer sells only British meat so its supply lines would not affected by the UK crashing out of the trading bloc.