Peterborough farm owner warns no deal Brexit could spell food shortages

Guy Singh-Watson, owner of Peterborough-based organic farm Riverford.
Guy Singh-Watson, owner of Peterborough-based organic farm Riverford.
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A farm owner in Peterborough has warned of food shortages if Britain crashes out the European Union without a deal

The alarm has been sounded by Guy Singh-Watson, owner of Peterborough-based organic farm Riverford at Sacrewell.

He says the end of March, which is when the country is expected to officially leave the EU, falls between two growing seasons.

His comments come as EU nations build up their no-deal preparations following Prime Minister Theresa May’s defeat over her Brexit deal.

Mr Singh-Watson, whose business also has sites in Hampshire and Yorkshire and employs 40 people in Peterborough and about 650 nationally, said: "With just months left until the UK leaves the European Union, our utopia seems an ever‑receding dream, especially when those leading the Brexit charge appear so woefully ignorant of the farming industry.

“A leavebacking former cabinet minister recently suggested that the current deadline of March 29 would be the perfect time for a no-deal Brexit.

"According to the former minister, bananas and tomatoes might be off the menu but we’d still have plenty to eat as we’d be leaving just as British produce comes into season.”

Mr Singh-Watson added: "This, though, would be the worst possible time for a no-deal Brexit and would coincide with the start of the UK hungry gap, when last year’s crops of kale, cabbage, greens, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, swedes and stored apples, onions and potatoes are all coming to an end, while harvest of new-season crops will not start until mid-May.”

The UK typically imports around half of its fruits and vegetables, but this figure starts rising in January, peaking at about 80 per cent in April before falling in June.

Riverford delivers veg boxes to customers throughout Cambridgeshire but suspends its UK-only box from March to June owing to a lack of home-grown produce.

Mr-Watson said: "Were we to leave without a deal there couldn’t be a worse time than March 29, unless you like woody swedes and sprouting potatoes.

"As for bananas, they are a tropical fruit with 99 per cent coming from outside the EU anyway.”

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