Economics bulletin 14 January

Date : 13 January 2022

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, labour shortages and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.

Absence update

Absence rates within the food and consumer goods industry due to the Omicron variant are now reported to be stable and largely manageable.

Businesses in England can introduce workplace mitigations to stem the increase in absence rates. These measures including ‘cohorting’, ‘fixed teams’, ventilation and screens or barriers to separate people who don’t normally mix.

Businesses can also reduce the risk by encouraging staff to get vaccinated and to receive the booster. See the section on ‘reducing contact for workers’ here for further details.

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is requesting that businesses complete a daily labour absence survey.

Critical worker testing

To limit workplace absence, the government has begun to send lateral flow tests to businesses with workers that are deemed critical to the food supply chain such as those working in large retail and wholesale distribution centres and in animal processing plants. This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister that 100,000 critical workers will be eligible to receive lateral flow tests every working day from 10 January.

Businesses and individuals are also encouraged to source free lateral flow tests from the government website. Supply of these tests have increased and they are available through the Royal Mail and pharmacies.

Five-day self-isolation option

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced a change to COVID-19 rules in England.

From 17 January 2022, minimum self-isolation for COVID patients will be cut from seven to five days.

Patients will be free to return to normal activities on taking two negative lateral flow tests, one day apart, with the first on Day Five.

Note that the day symptoms begin or a positive test is delivered is Day Zero – the following day is counted as Day One of isolation.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that the government is reviewing whether to change self-isolation from seven days to five days. The government is looking at the risks of further transmission of the Omicron variant into the community.

Some food and consumer goods businesses have called for a shorter self-isolation period as a way of further reducing absence levels.

See here for the rules on self-isolation in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Availability update

Product availability is reported to be stable.

Recent research conducted by IGD has more adults interviewed experiencing shortages of some food and groceries in-store or online recently (68% over the weekend compared to 61% just before Christmas). This is the highest level recorded since tracking of this started in July’21.

Availability issues remain highest for fresh produce and savoury snacks.

There has also been little change in the number of adults who have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do (38% vs 37% just before Christmas). There has been no change in the number who say they will or might stock up (42%).

Hear more about how shoppers are likely to cope in 2022 in our FREE Viewpoint webinar on 20 January.

Temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours

The Department for Transport has confirmed that the temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours has been extended to 10 February. This is one of a number of measures to alleviate challenges due the shortage of HGV drivers.

Changes to EU-GB Imports and exports

To date, there have been relatively few issues with changes to the rules regarding imports from the EU to GB from 1 January 2022.

Most have been due to minor administrative errors, quickly corrected (usually on-the-spot).

Trade volumes are currently quite strong and are expected to increase further in the next few weeks.

See here for further details and this information on pre-notification requirements for animal and plant products.

This follows publication of a revised version of the Border Operating Model.

Please note that full customs declarations are required from 1 January (although delayed payment may be possible in some cases).

From 15 January 2022, new rules also apply to some GB exports to the EU and Northern Ireland (this change was delayed from August 2021).

Items affected are live animals, germinal products and products of animal origin (POAO)

New Export Health Certificates (EHCs) will be needed, in-line with the EU’s Animal Health Regulation (AHR).

The new EHCs are available on the EHC Online system, replacing the old versions.

Old versions will no longer be accepted by the EU.

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

See the guidance on trade with the UK as a business based in the EU.

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