MPs seek answers as food supply chain faces 'perform storm'

The pandemic and new immigration policies are impacting on the sector's ability to recruit key workers
The pandemic and new immigration policies are impacting on the sector's ability to recruit key workers

MPs have launched an inquiry into the impacts of Brexit, Covid-19 and rising commodity prices on the food supply chain amid fears that the government is facing a 'perfect storm' of issues.

The Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee today announced the snap inquiry looking at numerous labour and trade issues affecting the food and farming sector.

The cross-party group of MPs is calling for evidence on the factors contributing to reports of food and worker shortages, a steep decline in food exports to the EU, and the possibility of food price inflation ahead.

The inquiry will consider the impact on competition, and examine the outlook for farmers, producers and consumers.

The EFRA Committee has also published correspondence to Home Secretary Priti Patel, highlighting "deep concern" about labour shortages currently affecting the food supply chain.

MPs have urgently requested information about the action the Home Office is taking to address reports of shortages of overseas labour.

The letter invites Ms Patel to give evidence to the Committee as part of the new inquiry.

Chair of the EFRA, Neil Parish MP said the end of the Brexit transition period and the ongoing pandemic had made 2021 a 'difficult year' for the industry.

"At present, shortages of key workers including HGV drivers are pushing businesses towards losses and causing issues for consumers."

"And, as we anticipate the implementation of new import checks, more problems loom over the horizon."

Mr Parish added: "The government risks sleepwalking into a perfect storm if it fails to listen to the warning calls of supply chain professionals.

“We want to understand the extent of the disruption to consumers, business owners and workers, and determine the best means to deal with them."

Ahead of Britain introducing checks and controls on food, live animals and related imports from the EU, questions also remain unanswered regarding authorities and businesses' readiness for new processes.

In the new inquiry, MPs will assess the extent to which Defra and other government departments have thus far taken action.