Coronavirus: MPs probe threat to food supplies

MPs have launched an inquiry into the UK’s food supply during the coronavirus epidemic – and farmers are able to submit evidence.

The inquiry by the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee was launched on Friday 3 April.

It is investigating access to healthy food during periods of self-isolation, and how disruptions in the food supply chain should be managed.

See also: Coronavirus: Advice for managing and keeping staff safe

Committee chairman Neil Parish MP said the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the importance of resilience in the UK’s food supply chain.

It had also highlighted the need for good communication with the public, assuring them that food will continue to be available, he added.

Empty shelves

“We have seen empty shelves at local supermarkets, and many of our constituents remain anxious about extended periods of self-isolation, during which buying food could be difficult.”

Mr Parish said measures have been taken to deal with the impacts of panic buying, but there are still questions that must be answered urgently.

“The right strategies are needed to ensure the supply chain keeps moving – from domestic farming and food imports to the delivery of food to those who need it the most,” he added.

“The impact of the pandemic on the workers who keep us fed, from the field through factories to the checkout and doorstep delivery, has to be managed.

“We must ensure that everyone has access to enough healthy food, and crucially that those self-isolating, or struggling to afford food, are not forgotten.”

Potential risks

The committee has asked for written answers to a number of questions:

  • Have government measures to mitigate disruptions to the food supply chain caused by the pandemic been proportionate, effective and timely?
  • Are the government and food industry doing enough to support people to access sufficient healthy food; and are any groups not having their needs met?
  • If not, what further steps should the government and food industry take?
  • What further impacts could the current pandemic have on the food supply chain, or individual parts of it, in the short- to medium-term?
  • What steps do industry, consumers and the government need to take to mitigate those impacts?
  • How effectively has the government worked with businesses and organistions to share information on supply chain disruptions and other problems, and to develop and implement solutions?
  • How effectively have these actions been communicated to the public?

Farmers and others who wish to submit answers to the above questions should do so before an initial deadline of Friday 1 May.

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