IGD - Economics bulletin 17 September

Date : 17 September 2021

Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest developments and guidance on COVID-19 and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.

New government taskforce to protect supply chains

The Prime Minister has created a new Cabinet Committee to drive action to alleviate problems with logistics and supply chains. Following his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, it is understood the Stephen Barclay will chair this committee.

The government will also launch an industry taskforce to inform the response to labour market and supply chain challenges. The official-led group will bring together major employers, retailers and hauliers to provide industry expertise and insight to ensure government has advance sight of labour market or supply chain challenges ahead of time. Where relevant it will serve as an advisory forum to test business or government led operational solutions to these challenges.

See here for more details.

Labour shortages in the food and farming sector – call for evidence

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into food and labour issues, with call for evidence.

The inquiry will explore what is causing labour shortages, and the impact on the food and farming sector both now and in the future.

Businesses can submit evidence until Friday 8 October 2021.

Labour availability – changes to HGV drivers testing

The Department for Transport has announced plans to shorten the testing process for HGV drivers. This will see up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests will be made available each year.

DEFRA is keeping under review absence levels in all parts of the food supply chain and is requesting businesses complete this absence tracking survey as frequently as possible.

Shopper availability concerns increase

Although absence rates relating to COVID-19 are thought to be falling, broader operational labour and HGV driver shortages are continuing to create challenges for supply chains.

This is resulting in lower order fulfilment levels than normal, meaning there is an impact on availability of some food and groceries.

Shopper research conducted for IGD over the weekend of 10-12 September reveals an increase in the number of adults (61%) who experienced shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently, up from last weekend (56%).

Fewer adults (26%) have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do, down from 33% last weekend and 38% two weeks ago.

See the full results here.

Despite the operational challenges due to labour shortages, there are sufficient food supplies within the system and any impact on overall availability has been limited to date.

COVID-19 Autumn and Winter Plan 2021

The government has published measures to deal with rising COVID-19 cases in England over the winter. The plan includes the following:

Plan A – which is largely an option of continuity

  • Booster jabs to be offered to over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and social care workers
  • Reminding people to let in fresh air if meeting indoors and to wear face coverings in crowded settings

Plan B – which the government will adopt “as a last resort” If Plan A is not sufficient to prevent "unsustainable pressure" on the NHS

  • Mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings. This would not include the retail sector
  • Asking people to work from home
  • Compulsory face coverings in certain settings to be confirmed

The government has indicated that “if Plan B is implemented, it could be at short notice in response to concerning data.”

Industry has asked government for more details on the likely trigger points for moving from Plan A to Plan B.

New timetable for UK border controls

The government has announced a new timetable for introducing full import controls for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods being imported from the EU to the UK. The government has delayed the instruction of these controls due to “the challenges businesses have faced due to the global pandemic, as well as its impact on supply chains across the UK and Europe.”

These changes will include:

  • From 1 January 2022 - Requirement for pre-notification of products of animal origin, animal by-products and high-risk food not of animal origin
  • From 1 July 2022 - Requirements for GB Export Health Certificates from EU exporters, Phytosanitary certificates for lower risk plant produce and Physical checks on SPS goods at Border Control Posts

See this article for more details.

See the Key dates for UK-EU transition and support for businesses

See the webinar calendar for organisations that trade with the EU including the Border and Protocol Delivery Group (BPDG) Industry Day Programme 202.

Access a series of webinars with panel of experts and see the guidance on trade with the UK as a business based in the EU.

Impact of Northern Ireland Protocol

DEFRA is keen to gather evidence about how the Northern Ireland Protocol has affected businesses. Businesses are being asked to complete this short survey by the end of this week.

This follows the announcement by the government of an indefinite extension of the grace period for sending certain Prohibited & Restricted goods (P&Rs) from GB to NI.

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