A fall in home-grown berry production would increase imports and raise prices, according to British Summer Fruits.
Consumer health could be at risk with industry body British Summer Fruits warning a labour shortage resulting from Brexit would ‘crush’ the UK industry, increasing the UK’s dependence on imports and raising prices.
British Summer Berries warned with the Government having still not produced a plan to safeguard home-grown berry production, there was a serious long-term threat to the industry and to consumer health.
57 per cent of British consumers prefer to eat British strawberries to imported but many were unaware of the threat to price rises and shortages, according to a recent YouGov poll.
19 per cent of people believed Brexit would increase the availability of British strawberries while 43 per cent think it would make no difference. Only 18 per cent said it would have a negative impact.
Public health nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire said the implications for health were worrying with only 31 per cent of adults and 8 per cent of teenagers eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
“Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fibre and antioxidants and they are one of the few fruits that almost all children enjoy,” she said.
“Anything which makes it more difficult for families to buy these healthy berries will inevitably have a negative impact on the nation’s health.”
Last year, the Andersons’ Report estimated the loss of seasonal labour to around £2.75 a punnet but 65 per cent of families with children under 18 would then stop buying them.
Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London, warns: “It is low-income families who will bear the brunt of Brexit, as they are the most vulnerable to price rises.
“And we know the health gap between rich and poor is heavily associated with diet and food costs, so the implications are potentially very serious.”
British Summer Fruits repeated a call for a new Seasonal Agricultural Scheme (SAWS) to tackle the problem and said action and clarity on SAWS was needed now.