'The UK is unprepared to feed its own people'

LONDON — Brexit threatens the security of the UK’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and will make healthy food more expensive, according to research house Euromonitor International.

Leaving the European Union without a trade deal would weaken the pound further, “leading to even higher prices of imported foods, which mostly applies to fresh produce,” Sara Petersson, nutrition analyst at Euromonitor International said in an emailed statement.

“With such dependence on foreign agriculture, at its current state, the UK is unprepared to feed its own people,” Petersson said.

The domestic agriculture sector is also heavily reliant on seasonal, migrant labour, which would be threatened by Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to reject the EU’s free movement of people and take the UK out of the single market.

Trade barriers and tariffs could exacerbate the price increases if the UK leaves the customers union. The cost of strawberries, for example, could jump by as much as 50%, Datamonitor said.

“The UK’s exit from the European single market is expected to result in changes in tariffs in food trade between the UK and the EU,” said Peterson. “Rising tariffs are likely to lead to high prices for fruits which may eventually affect the consumption of certain fruits that the UK is heavily reliant on importation from the EU over the 2016 — 2021 forecast period.”

The average Briton consumes 99 kilograms of fruit a year, or 3.4 portions a day. This is expected to drop by 2.1 kilograms to 3.3 portions by 2020.

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