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What will ‘Brexit meltdown’ do for the food industry

A number of people have told me that Brexit meltdown could mean empty supermarket shelves within 3 days of Brexit day. What will this do to the UK Food industry?

According to DEFRA statistics only 49%* of the food, by monetary value, we eat, is produced in the UK. (*UK origin consists of UK domestic production minus UK exports.)

Brexit could mean the end of free trade and lead to our ports blocking up due to the need for customs checks on the huge quantity of imports. As a result supermarket shelves could be ’empty’.

What will happen to the food industry if we can’t import products from the EU? Will food prices increase? Can we become self sufficient? Will we go back to war time rationing? Or will we just change what we eat?

DEFRA table. Where our food comes from

We can’t grow products like bananas, coffee, and most of out of season fruit and veg currently available all year round in supermarkets? We do however live in a green and pleasant land and have thousands of farmers to grow meat, fruit, veg, and dairy, and food businesses to make our daily bread, ready meals, cereals, etc.

With information and education we could easily change our diet and farmers should be delighted to grow food for local people instead of commodities for world markets. It does however take time, investment, expertise and labour to grow a new crop. And we don’t want everyone growing the same thing.

The table on the right shows the percentage of imports to exports (monetary value) and amazing to see the only category in which the UK is more that self sufficient is drinks.  Scotch whisky perhaps?

These figures are for monetary value. If we just took 2 products like potatoes and wheat for bread, the self sufficiency table may change. Especially if we used the wheat we fed to animals to produce meat, to make bread and cereals instead.

DEFRA table

Did you know that in intensive beef production, on average, it takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef?

I really hope that Brexit will mean people thinking about food and changing habits accordingly. Perhaps an empty supermarket shelf will encourage people to buy some fresh UK veg and cook a healthy meal. We may even save money if we eat fresh local produce instead of imported, salty, sugery ready meals.

One thing for sure is that we have interesting times ahead and potentially a great time for farmers to start building relationships with local people and markets. The more we can start building local supply chains the more secure we will be as Brexit looms.


  1. Mary Gwillam, Gwillam's Farm Shop, Worcester. says:

    What would help is if the education buffs were to reinstate Home economics into the school curriculum. Good plain home cooking ,none of this fancy foreign stuff that we are constantly being bombarded with on T.V. How to recognise & cook vegetables, ,fruit, meat & fish properly. Preparation of fresh produce at home for meals is far more beneficial to our health & well- being than ready meals which are very expensive. Put Home Economics back on the curriculum.

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