Will Brexit cause a pet food shortage in the UK? All you need to know

Is there a Brexit pet food shortage in the UK? Here’s all we know about the supply of pet food so far.

Supply chains are tightening as we move into winter due to a perfect storm of conditions, including ongoing Brexit paperwork, labour shortages, and the lasting effects of the pandemic. Coming at the same time as increased energy prices, there are fears many UK families may be in for a tough winter.

These difficulties may also bleed across into other sectors, including the pet food industry. Pet food manufacturers warned of potential shortages back in March, but the current situation could worsen the case still further.

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Here is all we know about the potential UK pet food shortage in the UK.

Pet food could be the next supermarket item to suffer as we head into winter. Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash.

Will there be a pet food shortage in the UK?

Back in March, major supermarkets, such as Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons, reported widespread shortages of pet food due to unanticipated high demand. The supply issues affected wet food pouches for dogs and cats the most. At the time, supermarkets warned that these problems could last several months.

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Now, as reports of empty shelves in supermarkets start to rise, there are concerns that UK pet food shortages could worsen as we move into winter.

At the moment, there have been scattered reports of pet owners not being able to find pet food in supermarkets and pet shops across the UK on Twitter, as well as other key pet care items like cat litter. Dogs and cats seem to be the most commonly affected so far.

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Wet food tins and pouches are thought to be the hardest hit. Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash.
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Why is there pet food shortage in the UK?

There are several reasons behind this potential shortage. The primary one is that 2020 saw an unprecedented rise in new pet owners due to the pandemic, with people having more time at home and therefore able to take care of a new furry friend. The UK pet population rose by 3.2 million in 2020 according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association. With the dramatic rise in demand, pet shops have found it hard to keep up with demand.

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At the same time, knock-on effects from Brexit have also worsened the situation in recent months. The vet industry used to have a high intake of new workers coming from the EU, but Brexit has made it harder for new vets to come to the UK to work and has also meant that many European vets have returned to the EU to work. Before Brexit, there was an average of between 80 and 100 new vets registering in the UK from the EU each month. This has now dropped to as little as 20 per month.

This vet shortage plays into the supply of pet food because any pet products coming into the UK need an Export Health Certificate (EHC) in order for it to be sold. With fewer vets and increased paperwork after Brexit, it’s become much harder for pet food retailers to find a vet willing to sign EHCs.

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If supply chain problems continue into the winter, this combination of issues could result in widespread pet food shortages across the country, particularly affecting supply of wet food pouches and tins.

The Pet Food Manufacturers Association has been contacted for comment.

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