Coronavirus (COVID-19) food and consumer goods industry update 15/04

Date : 15 April 2020

As the global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to escalate, IGD is working closely with the UK Government and the food industry. Here is a summary of some of the key developments.

Credit insurance

There are reports that it’s becoming significantly more difficult to obtain credit insurance. This is having a considerable impact on many businesses in the food and grocery industry. 

With the government due to provide an update on the timing of the relaxation of the lockdown this week, businesses are starting to plan for the end of the lockdown. Constraints on business activities may be further exacerbated by credit insurance issues at this point as businesses look to resume normal operations.

Trading conditions

While larger stores are getting back to a more stable trading environment, there are reports that convenience stores are continuing to experience significantly increased footfall.

This higher level of demand means that wholesalers, key to supplying many smaller and independent retailers, are reporting significant ongoing availability challenges across grocery categories.

Supply chain

The government is expected to hold further talks with the NFU today to look to find solutions to the dairy problem, including measures that will divert milk into retail and targeted support for farmers through this crisis.

Coronavirus job retention scheme

The government has continued to update guidance on the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The latest guidance includes clarification on what to do if an employee becomes sick whilst on furlough and can be found here, with advice for employees here. Information for the self-employed is given here.

HMRC continues to develop the IT portal that employers will use to reclaim payments made to furloughed workers, with delivery expected by the end of April.

Staff absence

We understand that absence in the food and consumer goods industry is stable, and in some cases improving, with most companies now reporting absence rates of 5%-15% compared to levels of 20% or more previously. The lower absence rates are thought to be due to:

  • improved benefits and recognition for employees staying in work
  • staff returning to work who were self-isolating
  • new social distancing measures being implemented well and providing reassurance to staff

Some organisations are managing the impact of absence by introducing additional training so that staff are trained to undertake different roles.

Seasonal workers

There are reports that the first of six special charter flights will arrive tomorrow at Stansted from Bucharest, carrying around 180 Romanian workers to help with agricultural tasks.

The government is continuing to work on a package to incentivise seasonal workers. This will also include guidance from Public Health England. An announcement is expected soon.

Shopper stockpiling

56% claim to have already stockpiled. This is on a downward trend since the beginning of April. 42% say they plan to stockpile. This is also on a downward trend since the end of March. This is the lowest level recorded so far.