Major issues face UK food supply chains

Reports in the media over recent weeks have revealed major issues for UK food supply chains given shortages in HGV drivers and the lack of CO₂ for the slaughter of animals and food packaging.

The shortfall of around 100,000 HGV drivers has affected many major retailers and food service outlets including Iceland and McDonalds after around a quarter of these drivers returned to the EU due to Brexit and Covid-19.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has long maintained that issues such as this would come to light as a result of a Brexit outcome that meant barriers between the UK and EU.

The UK Government has since announced that a package of measures will be introduced to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including temporary visas for 5,000 fuel tanker and food delivery drivers to work in the UK in the lead up to Christmas and a streamlined process for new drivers to obtain their HGV licence.

It will also include visas for 5,500 poultry workers to work in the UK for three months to help with the throughput and transport of chickens.

The UK has also experienced a shortage in CO₂ which is used for the humane slaughter of livestock and packaging of fresh meat and other food products to prevent bacteria.

CF Industries produce around 60% of the UK’s food-grade CO₂ requirements as a by-product of producing fertiliser, however, a price increase in gas by around 250% meant that two of its locations closed with short notice, leading to a reduction in slaughterings of pigs, poultry, cattle and sheep.

The UK Government has also provided financial support for CF Fertilisers in order to ensure a continued supply of CO₂ for the meat processing sector.

Both of these immediate issues demonstrate the vital role agriculture plays in the winder economy and the importance of supporting local food producers and butchers for maintaining food security.