The Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, is calling for evidence on the factors contributing to reports of shortages of food products and workers in key sectors, a steep decline in food exports to the EU and the possibility of food price inflation ahead.
It said it would consider the impact on competition, and examine the outlook for producers and consumers.
Last October the Government was accused of being unprepared for Brexit and a second wave of the novel coronavirus by the parliamentary committee.
The Committee has also written to Home Secretary Priti Patel MP, highlighting its "deep concern" about labour shortages currently affecting the food supply chain and urgently requesting 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.
Ahead of Great Britain introducing checks and controls on food, live animals and related imports from the EU, the committee said that urgent questions remain unanswered regarding authorities' and businesses' readiness for new processes. MPs will assess the extent to which the Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs and other Government departments have thus far taken action.
"The end of the Brexit transition period and the ongoing pandemic have made 2021 a difficult year for the food supply 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,” chair of the EFRA committee, Neil Parish MP, said:
"The Government risks sleepwalking into a perfect storm if it fails to listen to the warning calls of supply chain professionals. There are growing concerns about our preparedness for the introduction of new checks on SPS imports from the EU and other challenges ahead, and the Committee is troubled by the reported further delays in their implementation.”
The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions, with an initial deadline of 8th October 2021:
1. What is the extent and nature of labour shortages currently being experienced in the food supply chain?
2. What are the factors driving labour shortages in the food supply chain?
3. What is the outlook for the labour shortage situation in the coming months and years?
4. What other issues are affecting the food supply chain?
5. What impact will the timetable for introducing physical checks at the border on food and live animal imports from the EU have on the current issues being experienced by the UK food supply chain?
6. What measures has the Government taken to alleviate the problems being faced by the food supply chain this year? To what extent have they been successful?
7. Does the Government need to take further steps to support the food supply chain?