Supermarkets intervening with Northern Ireland food shortage

In more serious news that we are accustom to for a Friday article, many of the UK's major supermarkets have warned the government that an ‘urgent intervention’ is needed to prevent further disruption to the food supplies of Northern Ireland.

There have been shortages of some products in NI as retailers grapple with post-Brexit arrangements for importing food products from GB.

The chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Iceland, Co-Op and Marks & Spencer have written to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and said that if further new certification requirements are not introduced in April the system will become ‘unworkable’.

 The government said a new dedicated team has already been set up and will be working with supermarkets, the food industry and the Northern Ireland Executive to develop ways to streamline the movement of goods.

On December the 31st, the (majority of) UK left the EU’s single market for goods, however Northern Ireland remained a part of it. That means food products entering NI from GB need to be professionally certified and are subject to new checks an controls at ports. A three month ‘grace period’ means that supermarkets currently don’t need to comply with all the EU’s usual certification requirements.

However, the movement of food products from GB to NI has faced disruption. M&S has temporarily reduced its range of food products (presumably due to lacklustre sales during the COVID-19 period that we mentioned in a previous article) and Sainsbury’s has been sourcing Spar-branded products from a NI wholesaler.

The supermarket chief executives have said that if the grace period expires without a long-term solution the problems will only get worse.