In an open letter to the industry, FoB chief executive Gordon Polson stressed the importance of working together with the Government to ensure a continuous supply of quality bakery goods to meet the increased consumer demand during this “unprecedented time”.
He called on the secretary of state to continue its high level of support shown for the baking industry, which included the recognition of food production employees as key workers and the relaxation of drivers’ hours.
“This move also means we can ensure regular delivery of flour and ingredients to bakeries, as the supply chain for bread and bakery products has a very short lead time and flour from millers is delivered every day by tanker,” Polson added.
“As with other industries, absences in workforces are currently having an impact on productivity, however these are currently being managed. Although, there may be further challenges to overcome if this figure reaches 20%.”
Polson also thanked the Government for its help in the provision of personal protective equipment, prioritising coronavirus testing kits for the baking industry and reviewing guidance on the provision of canteen food in the context of key workers, measures he claimed would help keep the supply chain operating during the pandemic.
“With bread playing an important part in a healthy balanced diet – and no more so than during a time like this – we will continue to monitor the situation closely and will make further changes, if required, in order to maintain an adequate supply of the nation’s favourite staple food product,” Polson added.
Support from the Government
The letter from the FoB boss followed a message of support from environment secretary George Eustice, which praised the food industry’s effort to keep the UK fed in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
He assured food and drink businesses – which he dubbed the “hidden heroes” keeping the country running during this crisis – that he was in regular dialogue with the Government to help safeguard the industry and offer guidance to employers to ensure safe food production continued.
Meanwhile, Unite, the union, has called on the Government to implement mandatory two-metre social distancing in the food processing industry, in spite of advice from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that confirmed social distancing should be implemented if “reasonably possible”.