IGD - Economics bulletin 01 October

Date : 30 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.

Government measures on labour shortages

The government has announced a package of measures to ease current labour shortages. These include:

  • 5,000 visas being made available for HGV drivers
  • 5,500 visas for poultry workers

These visas, which will be issued on a first come first served basis, will be valid until 24 December 2021. The government is encouraging all relevant businesses to start the recruitment process as soon as possible.

The government has also announced other measures to boost the number of HGV drivers. These include:

  • New skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers and 1,000 more people to be trained through local courses
  • Ministry of Defence examiners to be used to increase the country’s testing capacity
  • Writing to nearly 1 million HGV drivers who have left the industry to encourage them back

This follows a request from The National Farmers Union and other industry bodies for the government to introduce a range of measures including a 12-month COVID Recovery Visa to alleviate labour shortages.

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

Businesses have until 8 October to submit evidence to an inquiry by The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee into food and labour issues.

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

It is understood the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is also investigating labour shortages.

Fuel supplies

The Transport Secretary has reported that there are “the first very tentative signs of stabilisation in the forecourts storage” with supplies being replenished at petrol forecourts. This follows a week in which reports of a shortage of some fuel tanker drivers led to panic buying by consumers and long queues at forecourts. It is expected that the situation will stabilise further.

A temporary measure to exempt the fuel industry from the 1998 Competition Act means that it will be easier to share information and prioritise the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that are most in need.

The government has contingency plans in place including the use of the military should this be required, but is not considering prioritising particular sectors.

CO2 production increasing

Businesses that rely on CO2 for their products are expected to agree new contract terms with CO2 wholesalers as part of a commitment to find a market-based solution to the recent CO2 shortages. This follows the three week agreement between the government and CF Fertilisers to enable the restart of CO2 production.

CF Fertilisers stopped production of CO2 (a by-product of fertiliser production) in two sites that produce 60% of the country’s supplies due to rising natural gas prices. Production has resumed and initial concerns around quality and production capacity are understood to be resolved, with a greater volume expected to flow through shortly.

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