Action needed to avoid food supply chain crisis

14 December 2021

Trade bodies have called on government to take action to ensure Britain’s food production self-sufficiency to avoid a supply chain crisis.

The organisations – which include the National Farmers Union and the Food and Drink Federation among others – are calling on government to establish a food and farming policy to keep Britain’s self-sufficiency in food production at 60%.

The NFU told Supply Management it wanted the government to undertake a comprehensive report into the UK’s food security and taking appropriate action, an strategy to boost UK exports, and action to allow great numbers of seasonal workers to help alleviate labour shortages. 

The NFU told Supply Management it wanted the government to undertake a comprehensive report into the UK’s food security, compile a strategy to boost UK exports, and take action to allow great numbers of seasonal workers to help alleviate labour shortages. 

The warning comes as the UK’s major food associations meet for the Food Security Summit following a year of major supply chain disruptions across the UK’s food sector.

A “perfect storm” of labour and HGV driver shortages have left vegetables unpicked in fields, over 14,000 healthy pigs culled, and shortages of products on supermarket shelves.

Record inflationary pressures have affected energy, feed and fertiliser prices, leading to warnings of prices increases ahead of the Christmas period.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “The government has tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes, but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The government needs a coherent food policy to maintain UK production, including a clear strategy for solving labour shortages throughout the supply chain.

“Food retailers and producers are working hard to adapt to a post-Brexit world, ensuring supply chains can continue to deliver quality and affordable food for everyone.”

Adam Compain, global head of supply chain insights at the data analytics company Project44, said the issues within the UK’s food sector highlighted wider supply chain failures. 

“Recently the dominant just-in-time supply chain model has come under mass scrutiny, as people wonder why supermarket shelves are empty, why new cars are hard to come by and why fast-fashion is failing to deliver,” he said.

“As numerous commentators agree, the just-in-time model, championed for its lean, agile approach is struggling to deal with the frequency and size of supply chain disruptions.”

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