Sorry to have to bring the subject up, but we’ve had a number of customer queries on what impact Brexit will have on the box scheme and shop in general. Until last week we’ve had very little feedback from our suppliers, but now we’ve a smidge more information to go on.
Obviously the scale of impact will depend on exactly how the UK leaves the EU i.e. with or without a deal and what length of transition period. A no deal and no transition period could be chaotic and costly. Additional trade tariffs, exchange rate shifts and increases in haulage due to border delays could add significant costs to the produce, not to mention a detrimental effect on the produce itself. A case study scenario run by one of our suppliers with full tariff costs saw a rise of 20-25%.
We’re entering ‘the hungry gap’. The time of year when UK stored crops (especially after a summer of drought) are running low and the winter greens of kale and cabbage also finish leaving no choice but to look abroad. The fruit boxes are already being affected as it is a challenge to find a variety of good quality and fruit within a box scheme budget, and very soon the winter pears and apples will be all gone making it more challenging still. Organic soft fruits, greens etc are in a race against time as they have even less shelf life than its conventionally grown counterparts so any border delays could mean a more expensive and poor quality product.
When the UK springtime produce resumes there may be no improvement as Brexit is causing long term staffing issues for the UK growers. They rely heavily on their skilled migrant workforce who are now uncertain of their futures and feel unwelcome so are leaving. The result is that a number of growers are considering ceasing in vegetable production, or are reducing the acreage so they can manage with the local labour. As demand for organic is on the rise demand is likely to outstrip supply in this scenario.
The price rises are unlikely to stop at just the fresh produce. One of our main ambient suppliers, Suma, has passed on warnings of short notice price rises on a number of lines. They are equally in the dark as to exactly what will be affected and by how much.
Whilst this sounds entirely doom and gloom the silver lining is that all our suppliers have spent a long time building relationships with European growers and everyone still wants to continue the trading relationship in the best way they can. We have no plans to put up the box scheme prices and only would do when our suppliers prices mean we could no longer offer a good quality product without a rise.
We will endeavour to keep you informed and in the meantime please keep all digits and limbs crossed for some positive outcome!