Fresh food such as milk and chicken is likely to be in short supply in UK supermarkets, following the suspension of P&O Ferries services.
The warning comes as P&O has come under fire for sacking 800 of its employees without warning, potentially delaying operations by 10 days.
Currently, the ferry firm has temporarily suspended all services between Dover and Calais and routes from Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin, and Cairnryan to Larne.
The services are responsible for 15% of all UK freight, and fresh food is likely to be suffer the worst delays as it is shipped more frequently. Other goods, such as medicine, are expected to be impacted at a lower rate.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that a “prolonged interruption” to shipping services would impact fresh food between mainland UK, Northern Ireland and the EU.
More pressingly, the firm accounts for around 50% of freight ferry services between Northern Ireland and Scotland – however the route from Cairnryan to Larne remains suspended.
P&O Ferries has confirmed services will be suspended for a week to 10 days as they bring in agency workers to alleviate the situation. On top of this, the Department of Transport have begun liasing with the Kent Resilience Forum and Cabinet Office to manage traffic while P&O works to restore its services.
Road Haulage Association managing director of policy and public affairs Rod McKenzie highlighted that post-Brexit paperwork has complicated matters further as routes cannot be as easily diverted.
“Retailers are working with other ferry companies to ensure disruption to P&O ferry services do not interfere with the movement of fresh food between GB, NI and EU,” BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said.
“Nonetheless, a prolonged interruption to P&O services, who are an important part of UK supply chains, could eventually impact the flow of goods. We urge the ferry company and union to find a speedy resolution to the current issues.”