IGD - Economics bulletin 20 July

Date : 20 July 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.

Self-isolation exemptions for key workers

The Prime Minister has announced that a “small number of named fully vaccinated, critical workers” will be able to leave self-isolation solely for the purpose of work. Further details are expected on Tuesday.

Businesses have been raising concerns about the increased number of employees being advised to self-isolate for up to 10 days, following notification from the Test and Trace App that they had been in close contact with someone reporting a positive COVID-19 test result.

Industry have been calling for more flexibility in how the Test and Trace system works for food industry workers.

Labour shortages – Absence rates survey

With rising COVID-19 cases and more people self-isolating, increased absence levels are being reported across the food and consumer goods industry. Industry has raised concerns about the possible impact on the food supply chain.

DEFRA has launched a new absences and vacancies survey to be completed by 22 July. All businesses are encouraged to complete the survey, even those not directly impacted.

DEFRA is keen to develop a clear understanding of the extent to which vacancies, absences and self-isolation are impacting on the supply chain. DEFRA will review the results and take appropriate actions to address the shortfall.

Any businesses that are experiencing significant absence levels are encouraged to contact DEFRA.

COVID-19 Business guidance

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has issued updated guidance for businesses in England to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in workplaces. Businesses are advised to carry out health and safety risk assessments and take steps to mitigate any problems.

This follows the move to step 4 of the roadmap in England from 19 July with the lifting of most restrictions.

Free workplace testing has now ended. Businesses are encouraged to direct their employees to pharmacy and online ordering to continue to access rapid lateral flow tests.

Further relaxation of driver’s hours

The Department for Transport will consider whether any further extension of the relaxation of drivers’ hours is required. This may require obtaining evidence and views of industry. This follows last week’s announcement of a temporary relaxation of driver’s hours until 8 August 2021

Industry representatives have been raising concerns that this date may need to be extended further to take account of peak demand periods e.g., to include more holidays in the UK, the new school term and possible impact of further changes to border controls for businesses importing from the EU. See our key dates section.

National Food Strategy

Henry Dimbleby has published the second part of the National Food Strategy. This is an independent review. Some of the key recommendations of the strategy include:

  • A sugar and salt tax of £3/kg for sugar and £6/kg for salt sold wholesale for use in processed foods, or in restaurants and catering businesses.
  • Extension of free school meals to families with a household income of £20,000 or les
  • GPs to prescribe fruit and vegetables through a trial of a "Community Eatwell" programme 
  • increasing spending on other schemes to improve the diets of families on low incomes and improving food education
  • Introduce mandatory reporting for all food companies with more than 250 employees of key metrics including sales of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt, sales of fruit and vegetables, sales of protein, food waste and total food and drink sales

The government is committed to carefully considering the review and its recommendations. A White Paper will be developed in response in the next 6 months.

See IGD’s response to the National Food Strategy. There will be further analysis on our website following a careful review of the proposals.

Northern Ireland Protocol update

Lord Frost is due to set out the government’s proposals for the Northern Ireland Protocol on Wednesday 21 July. He has said that the Northern Ireland Protocol is “not sustainable” in its current form.

Northern Ireland – Movement assistance scheme extended

The government has announced further expansion on the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS). MAS will also include a helpline and financial support for certification schemes for traders moving agri-food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The support will last until the end of 2023.

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