Trade associations from the UK food and drink supply chain are calling on the government to ensure they can continue to provide essential supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisations including the Agricultural Industries Confederation and the British Frozen Food Federation have signed a letter urging the government to make sure critical imports and exports of food and drink can continue throughout the crisis.
The letter, published by the Food and Drink Federation, said the global crisis highlighted how integral food and farming was to the national infrastructure, and the continuation of trading through open markets would be vital to help aid the global economic recovery and protect the economies of many supplying countries.
It said: “Now more than ever, it is critical that we keep imports and exports of food and drink flowing. Essential movements of ingredients and raw materials must continue so that we can supply consumers across the UK.”
Exports are essential to ensure UK businesses have access to working capital to make production viable, and raw materials sometimes have to be sent abroad for further processing before returning to the UK, according to the federation.
“Our farmers rely on imported [animal] feed and need access to other markets to sell their products, especially where demand in the UK is insufficient. Our manufacturers rely on exports to grow their businesses and imports to complement their use of domestically produced ingredients and raw materials. Our restaurants and retailers need access to a full range of goods all year round to balance seasonality and meet consumer demand,” the letter said.
It also warned that, although it was understandable some countries were placing temporary selective restrictions on exports, the UK and other developed nations should “lead the way and reject moves towards protectionism”.
The letter concluded: “The UK food and drink industry calls on all governments to ensure trade continues to flow freely and without restriction so that together we can come through this incredibly difficult time stronger than ever.”