The BRC fears the courgette shortages seen earlier this year could become a regular occurrence

Supermarket leaders today warned the scenes of empty shelves and soaring prices witnessed during the lettuce and courgette shortages could be repeated on a grand scale as Brexit deprives shoppers of a raft of their favourite staple foods.

The BRC document, A Customs Roadmap, warns of a much broader availability crisis hitting a host of fresh foods, meat and fish.

As government Brexit negotiations with EU leaders resumed yesterday, the report warns of chaos at the port of Dover, also leading to increases in food prices and more food waste, unless the UK can come up with systems to slash red tape and improve port facilities.

The report, which warns of product shortages across the board, claims short shelf life food is most at risk of disruption because of the decision to quit the EU.

The BRC says that with nearly 80% of food imports coming from the EU, the key port of Dover is a disaster zone waiting to happen as it is completely unprepared to handle a raft of new customs checks.

Supermarket leaders say they fear the chaotic scenes of Operation Stack becoming a grim daily reality.

The result, it warns, could be widespread availability problems impacting oranges imported from Spain, French wine and apples, cheddar cheese and beef from Ireland, tomatoes from Holland and mozzarella from Italy.

It says a massive 79% of food imported by retailers is from Europe, including 43% of beverages, 21% of fruit & veg and 14% of meat and fish.

“A strong deal on customs is absolutely essential to deliver a fair Brexit for consumers,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson. “While the government has acknowledged the need to avoid a cliff edge after Brexit day, a customs union in itself won’t solve the problem of delays at ports. So to ensure supply chains are not disrupted and goods continue to reach the shelves, agreements on security, transit, haulage, drivers, VAT and other checks will be required to get systems ready for March 2019.

“We want to work with the government to develop a system that works for consumers, so there’s no difference in terms of the availability of affordable, quality products when they make purchases or visit stores post-Brexit. We believe our recommendations will help to achieve that and enable our world-leading retail industry to continue serving customers and contribute to the growth of the UK economy.”