Speaking a few hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected in Brussels for last minute trade deal negotiationsJohn Allan was unable to rule out the possibility of temporary shortages of some fresh produce from Jan. 1, but added that they should only be for “a limited period”.
He said the UK’s largest supermarket chain had decided to split imports into UK ports to avoid relying on a few entry points, including Dover, amid warnings of long freight delays.
Carriers believe such a disruption is inevitable whether or not the Brexit transition period ends with a free trade agreement.
Mr Allan’s remarks come on top of growing evidence of a rush to secure supplies and evade tariffs, should the UK and EU negotiate under World Trade Organization rules from the January 1st.
A major ferry operator, Stena, told Sky News on Wednesday that the volume of cargo it handled in the past few days was up 19%.
Its chief executive, Ian Hampton, said: ‘We believe this is the result of a Brexit stockpile, with companies being extremely cautious given the new reality of December 31, with the new controls coming into play.
“So it makes sense for companies to stock up to ensure that supply chains, as well as the opportunity and access to goods, are not hampered. ”
the coronavirus The crisis has added to the tension at UK ports, with Southampton joining Felixstowe to operate beyond capacity.
The Tesco chairman was speaking just days after the company’s new CEO Ken Murphy used an interview with Sky’s Ian King Live to demand clarity on the rules they may face.
He could not rule out the prospect of price increases at the checkouts to reflect additional cost increases.
Mr Allan told Bloomberg News: “We try to make sure that we have stocked as much long-lived products as possible either in our own warehouses or at our suppliers. ”
Britain’s grocery industry increased the capacity of its warehouses last year, in hopes that a complicated divorce from the EU would hurt supply chains.
Stores in Northern Ireland were confirmed on Wednesday to be granted a three-month grace period from additional checks and formalities demanded by new post-Brexit trade deals in the Irish Sea.
The government made the announcement following an agreement on the operation of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol which will apply whether a broader trade agreement between the EU and the UK is concluded or no.