Some respondents preferred to take more positive view on Brexit

Some respondents preferred to take more positive view on Brexit

Pessimism about how Brexit could affect the global food industry has grown in the last three months, according to just-food's latest survey of its readership on the issue.

just-food first surveyed its readers on Brexit in the immediate aftermath of the UK's vote to leave the EU. The second survey took place last month and analysis of the data displayed a growing a sense of gloom about how Brexit could affect the food sector internationally.

Respondents were asked to rate how confident they were about the prospects for the global food industry in the wake of Brexit over two time-frames: short-term, measured over the next three to 12 months; and medium- to long-term, defined as three to five years out.

In the first survey, a majority of respondents rated their confidence levels at between six and ten over both time-frames. By the time of the second survey, that had switched to a minority.

In the latest poll, some 42% rated their confidence in the short-term prospects for the global food industry between six and ten, against 53% first time around. The second survey showed 44% scored their confidence in the medium- to long-term prospects for the sector internationally in the wake of Brexit between six and ten, compared to 54% in the first poll.

The latest iteration of just-food's survey gave respondents an opportunity to describe what impact Brexit could have on their business and why. Two-thirds of those polled answered, with the impact exchange-rate volatility will have on input costs, the consequences for labour and the prospect of tariffs common concerns.

"Although there will be some opportunities presented by Brexit, I do not expect these to offset the rising input costs and labour force complications. I also believe that consumer confidence will be severely dented when the real impact kicks in and I think the industry as a whole will struggle unless food and drink manufacturers can unite together and provide a strong voice to mitigate the impact of likely Brexit issues," one reader wrote.

Another said: "Food is an essential, so the impact could mainly see less brands, more cheap unbranded. However, I think the bigger impact is on UK food businesses - we buy components and some ingredients from Europe and the exchange rate has sliced our margins so badly. However, the supermarkets will not accept any price rises of course. Small businesses will be squeezed in the supermarket price war - at the cost of innovation and the health of the nation as the cheap ingredients are often the most unhealthy bulk fillers. Then, as we move into Brexit proper, I worry that the replacement trade deals will be more hindrance than help to export."

There were, however, some more positive comments, with media coverage of the issue coming in for some criticism.

"Businesses have always had to continually adapt to meet current and future challenges and Brexit is no different. We must all seize this as a positive opportunity and steer our businesses through the changes that have happened so far - currency etc - and manage during the transition period, which, by the way, will not be anywhere near the doomsday scenario that the media perpetuate, with new customs tariffs, deporting foreign workers etc., etc.," one respondent argued.

Another said: "I cannot see what the fuss is all about. I believe the UK can now start supporting their farmers who will benefit in the long run. There is a lot of scaremongering in the media. My view is simple while people in the UK will pay money for food there will always be someone who will sell."