News ID: 203561
Published: 0931 GMT November 01, 2017

Brexit’s impact on UK food supply may be dramatic

Brexit’s impact on UK food supply may be dramatic

The UK faces serious health implications if the government fails to agree a Brexit deal, found a report that said of 35 portions of fruit and vegetables, a figure relating to the five-a-day recommendation for individuals, just one ‘portion’ is grown in the UK and picked by British or non-EU workers.

The report, to mark the launch of a new RSA commission examining the impact of Brexit on food and farming, found that the five-a-day health target — which adds up to the 35 portions of fruit and vegetables a week — was overwhelmingly met by food grown in the EU or harvested by EU workers in the UK, The Guardian wrote.

Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said Brexit offered a great opportunity to reshape farming and food, but warned that no deal over the exit from the union would have a dramatic and immediate effect.

“What would be available on the shelves would change dramatically. There will be delays at ports and all along the food supply system — the impact will be felt very, very quickly,” she said.

The study found that of the average 28 portions consumed by Britons of the recommended weekly intake of 35 portions of fruit and vegetables, the equivalent of 11 portions came from the EU, seven from the rest of the world and nine arose from the UK and were harvested by workers from other EU countries. The equivalent of just one portion was grown in the UK and harvested by British or non-EU workers.

Of 35 ‘portions’ of fruit and vegetables just one has been harvested from the UK and picked by UK or non-EU workers.

Pritchard added: “If there is no deal the system is very fragile and the impact in the UK food supply is likely to be dramatic.”

The majority of farmers backed Brexit, but the National Farmers’ Union has since suggested that crops will ‘rot in the fields’ and that Britain will be unable to produce the food if the government cannot secure a deal that allows tens of thousands of EU workers to continue to work on UK farms.

The government has been criticized for failing to make any meaningful progress in the Brexit negotiations and key figures, including the prime minister, have argued that a no deal would be better than a bad deal.

The commission aims to explore what will happen to food and farming after Brexit and how the UK might then improve public health, sustainability and the rural environment.

It says that since the UK joined the European Economic Community, in 1973, the amount people have spent on food has decreased as a proportion of their weekly household budget, from 31 percent to 17 percent.

Poor diets have also become more common as a cause of ill health, with the latest estimates putting the cost of obesity at £16bn a year.

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