GEN shipping port

UK food and drink trade associations have called on governments to ensure the continuation of imports and exports of food and drink at this critical time.

An open letter has been fronted by Food & Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright and co-signed by bodies including the Fresh Produce Consortium, Association of Labour Providers and Federation of Wholesale Distributors, among others.

Here's the letter in full:

Covid-19 is the biggest threat this country has faced in decades, and all over the world we are seeing its devastating impact. It is therefore not surprising that this creates huge challenges for the United Kingdom. Our food and farming industries are working hand-in-hand with departments across the government on a daily basis to ensure that consumers have continued confidence that there will be adequate supplies of food and drink.

This global crisis highlights just how integral food and farming industries are to our country’s critical national infrastructure and government has rightly acknowledged the crucial role played by the more than four million hidden heroes in every community that work across the UK’s essential farm-to-fork supply chain.

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.

The continuation of trading through open markets will also be absolutely vital to help aid the global economic recovery and protect the economies of many supplying countries. We have seen some countries introduce trade restrictions that may have the unfortunate consequence of impeding the flow of goods between nations. While it is understandable that some may place temporary selective restrictions on exports where there is a direct threat posed to the ability of their communities to access affordable food and drink, it is incumbent on the UK and other developed nations to lead the way and reject moves towards protectionism.

UK food and drink is an international success story, exporting more than £23 billion of quality products each year. These exports are essential to ensure UK businesses have access to working capital that means production for the UK market is viable. They provide an outlet for outstanding British products all over the world. They allow movements of ingredients and raw materials to near neighbour countries for further processing that cannot be performed in the UK, with the goods returning to the UK where they will end up on shop shelves and in our restaurants.

Our industry cannot operate in isolation if we are to continue providing world-leading quality, choice and value for money. Our farmers rely on imported 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 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.