U.K. to Probe Extent of Country’s Food Supply-Chain Woes
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government is starting an investigation into just how badly labor shortages, Brexit and surging commodity prices are hurting the country’s food industry.
A lack of key workers such as truck drivers is pushing businesses toward losses and causing knock-on issues for consumers, said Neil Parish, chair of the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. In a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, he highlighted livestock stuck on farms due to meat-processing bottlenecks and lower chicken production closing some food outlets.
Similar labor woes sparked by the pandemic have plagued global food-supply chains, with countries in Asia and the Americas also facing trouble staffing meat plants and restaurants and completing harvests. That’s come as higher crop prices and shipping costs sent world food prices near a decade-high.
This year in Britain, some grocery stores have faced empty shelves, while post-Brexit red tape has hampered agricultural exports to the European Union.
“The government risks sleepwalking into a perfect storm if it fails to listen to the warning calls of supply-chain professionals,” Parish said. “The end of the Brexit transition period and the ongoing pandemic have made 2021 a difficult year for the food supply industry.”
The committee set an initial Oct. 8 deadline for its inquiry and is seeking insight into issues including:
- The outlook for labor shortages in the coming months and years.
- What impact a timetable for physical checks at the border on food and live animal imports from the EU will have on current supply-chain problems.
- Whether the government needs to take more action to support the food supply chain.
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