Retailers are increasing their stocks to ensure a “sufficient supply of essential products”, confirmed the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
But that doesn’t mean buyers should panic and stock up on their own from Tesco and Asda, the trade body warned.
If a deal cannot be reached, the BRC has said Britain will leave the EU on World Trade Organization terms – meaning the public will face more than £ 3 billion in tariffs food and at higher prices throughout 2021.
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They added that the current uncertainty makes it more difficult for companies to prepare.
In March, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, shoppers rushed to supermarkets to stock up on flour, toilet paper and eggs, to name a few.
Managing Director Helen Dickinson said: “Retailers would have no choice but to pass some of these additional costs on to their customers, who would see higher prices filter through in 2021.
“In addition, the new controls and red tape that will apply from January 1 will create an additional burden on retailers and their customers.
“Retailers are doing all they can to prepare for any eventuality, increasing the stock of boxes, toilet paper rolls and other longer-lasting products so that there is sufficient supply. in essential products.
“While no preparation on the part of retailers can completely prevent the disruption, there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual, as the main impact will be on fresh imported products, such as than fresh fruits and vegetables, which cannot be stored for a long time. periods by retailers or consumers. ”
Ms Dickinson warned the public would “pay the price” for failure to “agree on a zero tariff deal”.
“With many people’s finances already strained by the economic impact of the coronavirus, households can hardly afford a significant rise in food prices. In the interests of UK customers and businesses, we need an agreement within the next three weeks, ”she said.
Earlier, UK Chambers of Commerce President Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith told Sky News the UK needs a deal ‘as soon as possible’, adding: ‘We need to understand how we are going to negotiate and what are the rules. ”
“I think it’s very difficult to be ready because there are a number of areas where we don’t have any details,” she said.
“We don’t understand anything about tariffs or quota quotas. We do not understand the rules of origin in detail.
“We’re not going to know what tariffs will be imposed on goods leaving or entering the country, which means we won’t know the price.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma also urged people not to engage in panic buying before a possible failure to secure a trade deal with the European Union.
As supermarkets stock up before January 1, Mr Sharma told Sky News: “I am very confident that the supply chains will still be in place.
“I would tell everyone to do your usual shopping as you would and I think we’ll find everything to be okay. ”