Action to support wholesalers:
FWD spoke to Defra Secretary of State George Eustice this afternoon about the challenges facing wholesalers. As a result of this the Secretary of State will be requesting the following help from HM Treasury for the wholesale sector:
Key worker status:
Key workers’ children will still attend school after they shut, allowing them to continue working. Defra has said key worker status will cover the food supply chain “in a general sense” and will include distribution. There won’t be a list of specific jobs, instead sectors will be identified with categories of jobs within them, and the it will be up to individual head teachers to operate discretion. The full list has yet to be published, believed to be due to a dispute in Government about which sectors should be included.
These have been relaxed for food, pharmacy and household product distribution until April 3
Public sector contracts:
After gathering responses from members we have demonstrated to Defra that these will not be fulfilled with substantial and immediate support for foodservice distributors, which led to the response from the Secretary of State outlined above.
The Government has released guidance for the continuation of free school meals, which includes meals or vouchers for supermarkets and shops, at the schools’ discretion. FWD had discussions with Department for Education on what would happen to wholesalers’ school food contracts following school closures. These are ongoing.
The Department for Transport is considering temporary relief for MOTs and CPC year 5 renewals being extended to year 6, as well as relaxation on O licence requirements
Update March 16:
FWD has been in regular contact with Defra, our wholesaler members and product suppliers. We are impressing on Government the need to support food and drink distributors as well as their foodservice customers.
Members are seeing a downturn in demand from foodservice customers, and a corresponding rise in sales into retailers.
Update March 13: Delay phase
The UK has now entered the Delay phase and anyone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19, ie cough or fever, should now enter seven days of self-isolation.
Guidance for businesses is currently being updated and can be found here
Advice for individuals has been updated and can be found here
Latest Government actions include:
Update March 11:
A Bill will be brought forward by the Department of Health later this week giving the Government time-limited emergency powers to manage the virus, which will include provisions for data sharing in order to manage food supplies.
The waving of delivery curfews is expected for later today, and will cover noise restrictions as well as lifting local authority planning rules on timings. Discussion on driver hours are ongoing, with in principle agreement that this will happen, with a 30 day relaxation at first. Any agreement beyond 30 days has to be agreed by the EU.
As infections take 20 minutes to transfer for those within two metres, the Government says there shouldn’t be any issue for delivery drivers.
The Minister said the Government will be lifting local authority restrictions on night time deliveries where necessary, based on the model used for the 2012 London Olympics. This is due to be reviewed in “a week or so”.
The announcement follows last week’s call between the Environment Secretary and leading supermarkets, during which the industry said a relaxation of curfews would help retailers respond to the increased consumer demand for some products, namely hygiene products and a limited number of long life items.
Current rules mean that deliveries are prohibited overnight so that vehicles do not disturb residents. The government will temporarily relax the enforcement of restrictions to give greater flexibility.
These measures follow a further call between the Environment Secretary and leading representatives from across the food industry.
They are also looking at restrictions on working time directives on drivers hours, vehicle weights, and waving carrier bag charges (so contaminated bags are not brought into store) based on evidence, although they “are not at the point of making a decision” on these issues yet.
Update March 9: Changes to delivery restrictions
Defra Secretary of State George Eustice has said the Government is still in the Contain phase, but it is giving thought to moving to the Delay phase, although that point has not been reached. The Government is still looking to encourage self-isolation over the period of escalation in the next weeks, and the Minister wanted to understand how the food supply chain could support this.
March 6: The Government’s recommended message to customers at present is that it is “business as usual” on supplies.
It is anticipated that reduced labour supply over the coming weeks will create supply bottlenecks, beyond imports from Italy and China on things like production, drivers and distribution. Plans are being drawn up by Government for contingencies around:
Should any of these be introduced, sufficient lead time for businesses to respond would be factored in.
With regard to what members should do if a colleague contracts Covid19, the guidance is clear entirely shutting down operations is not recommended. In this scenario members should contact their Local Health Protection Team for advice. They will conduct interviews with other colleagues in contact with the person with Covid19. Most contact does not meet the significant contact criteria. Information can be found at section 11 here