Economics bulletin 28 January

Date : 27 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, the rising cost of living, labour shortages and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.

CO2 supplies

The short-term agreement between the government and CF Fertilisers to ensure continued CO2 supplies is due to end on 31 January.

Negotiations are continuing with CF Fertilisers to extend the contract. Industry representatives have expressed concern about the impact on supplies.

In any event it is understood that priority will be given to meat processors. The government is looking at developing more resilience in the supply of CO2 across the country.

Declining COVID-19 related absence

Absence rates within the food and consumer goods industry due to the Omicron variant remain largely manageable and are declining.

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.

Product availability

Given concerns around absence rates, broader labour shortages and new border controls, IGD has been monitoring any impact of product availability. In the latest shopper research conducted over the weekend of 21 -23 January 2022, fewer adults are reporting availability issues (63% compared to 68% two weeks ago).

Availability issues remain highest for fresh produce and savoury snacks.

In addition, slightly fewer adults have recently felt the need to stock up or purchase more than they normally do (37% vs 38% two weeks ago). There has also been a slight fall in in numbers saying they will or might stock up (39% vs 42%).

Retail Sales

Food retailers saw non-seasonally adjusted volumes increase by 0.1% in December 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the ONS. Volumes have increased by 1.4% since December 2019, illustrating that retailers are maintaining the gains seen over the pandemic.

COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxation

Most plan B COVID-19 restrictions were removed in England on Thursday 27 January. This included:

  • Mandatory NHS COVID-19 passes in nightclubs, and other settings with large crowds.
  • Mandatory use of face masks in public indoor venues, including retail settings, is no longer required

The latest information on restrictions in England can be found here.

COVID-19 restrictions applying to Scotland were eased from 24 January. These included:

  • No requirement for one-metre physical distancing and table service in hospitality and retail
  • No requirement to limit social interaction in indoor spaces to three households

The latest information on restrictions in Scotland can be found here.

From 28 January restrictions in indoor settings will be eased in Wales, including:

  • The removal of the rule of six and two-metre physical distancing in hospitality
  • The re-opening of nightclubs

The latest information on restrictions in Wales can be found here.

See here for details on further relaxation of restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Businesses are encouraged to access the employer toolkit to support their employees to get a COVID-19 booster.

Changes to EU-GB Imports and Exports

To date there have relatively few reported issues following the introduction of new Animal Health Regulation Export Health Certificates (EHCs). This applies to products of animal origin exported to the EU or moved to Northern Ireland (NI), effective from 15 January 2022.

Volumes are in-line with 2019 levels, with reported issues principally impacting dairy and shellfish exports.

The majority of old EHCs have been switched off with the exception of a small number of certificates (including those required for dairy exports). These should only be used if the Border Control Post (BCP) in the EU have confirmed they will accept them. New Export Health Certificates (EHCs) can be found here.

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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