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Election 2024: Analysing the Impact on UK Fresh Produce Costs and Consumer Prices

The upcoming UK general election is poised to significantly impact the fresh produce industry, with potential repercussions for both industry costs and consumer prices.



Several key factors contribute to this, particularly the introduction of new post-Brexit import controls and the evolving political landscape.


Impact of Post-Brexit Import Controls


One of the most immediate concerns for the fresh produce industry is the new Border Target Operating Model (BTOM).  The implementation date for Medium Risk Fruit and Veg SPS checks is 31st January 2025 and reclassifies many fruit and vegetable consignments from the EU, necessitating additional paperwork and physical inspections.


The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) estimates these changes will add approximately £200 million to import costs annually, which are expected to be passed directly to consumers..


Potential Election Outcomes


The policies of the main political parties could further influence fresh produce costs. The Conservative Party has emphasised its commitment to stringent and some would say, unworkable, border controls for perishable goods, without incorporating the practical solutions proposed by the FPC.



Meanwhile, the Labour Party has indicated a focus on reducing import costs and improving supply chain efficiency, which might involve revising some of the post-Brexit trade arrangements. Changes in immigration policies, such as those related to seasonal worker visas, also play a crucial role.


The current government has announced 45,000 visas for horticultural workers in 2023 and 2024, a move that helps address labour shortages but may need expansion depending on election outcomes.


Industry Responses and Consumer Impact


Industry leaders have expressed significant concerns about the new import controls. They warn that the increased costs and administrative burdens will lead to higher prices for consumers and threaten the viability of smaller businesses. Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of FPC further elaborated, "The system is not fit for purpose. I doubt there are enough officials in the EU to generate the volume of Phytosanitary Certificates which are going to be required".



For consumers, the direct impact will likely be seen in the form of higher prices for a variety of fruits and vegetables. The introduction of Phytosanitary Certificates and potential delays at the border could lead to reduced availability and increased spoilage, further driving up prices. This is particularly concerning as nearly half of the UK’s fruit and vegetables are imported, with the EU being a major supplier.


Government Measures and Reviews


In response to these challenges, the UK government has initiated a review aimed at increasing fairness in the fresh produce supply chain. This review seeks to ensure that producers are paid fairly and that supply chain transparency is improved.


Additionally, investments in agricultural innovation and support for domestic production are part of broader efforts to stabilise the market and ensure food security.


Ultimatly, the upcoming UK election will undoubtedly shape the landscape of fresh produce costs and consumer prices. The introduction of stringent import controls and the political priorities of the winning party will play critical roles.


Both industry stakeholders and consumers will need to closely monitor these developments to understand the full impact on fresh produce prices in the UK. The need for strategic adjustments and supportive policies will be crucial in navigating the post-election economic environment.



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