Trade associations from across the UK food and drink supply chain have urged global governments to continue trading through open markets to protect the industry during the coronavirus crisis.
Amid signs of a growing shift towards protection in parts of Europe, a letter signed by the Food and Drink Federation’s chief executive Ian Wright and co-signed by over 30 other trade body representatives said the continuation of trading through open markets was vital to help aid the global economic recovery and protect the economies of many supplying countries.
“We have seen some countries introduce trade restrictions that may have the unfortunate consequence of impeding the flow of goods between nations,” they wrote. “While it is understandable that some may place temporary selective restrictions on exports where there is a direct threat posed to the ability of their communities to access affordable food and drink, it is incumbent on the UK and other developed nations to lead the way and reject moves towards protectionism.”
UK food and drink exports more than £23 billion of products each year. “These exports are essential to ensure UK businesses have access to working capital that means production for the UK market is viable,” said the letter. It added the industry cannot operate in isolation if is to continue providing ‘world-leading quality, choice and value for money’.
“Our farmers rely on imported feed and need access to other markets to sell their products, especially where demand in the UK is insufficient. Our manufacturers rely on exports to grow their businesses and imports to complement their use of domestically produced ingredients and raw materials. Our restaurants and retailers need access to a full range of goods all year round to balance seasonality and meet consumer demand.”
It added: “The UK food and drink industry calls on all Governments to ensure trade continues to flow freely and without restriction, so that together we can come through this incredibly difficult time stronger than ever.”
Earlier, Romania became the first country to cut off grain exports during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We can’t afford to be left without wheat because of the greed of some grain owners,” Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said. “If necessary, I’m determined to ban these exports and even seize them.” French President Emmanuel Macron has said that French agriculture needs to become more ‘independent’ in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The moves come amid reports that British farmers, concerned about losing their crop of early summer fruit and vegetables because of the covid lockdown, are being forced to fly pickers into the UK on specialist charter jets from Romania.
Matthew Purton, the head of commercial aviation at Air Charter Services, told The Guardian that Romania lifted restrictions to allow farm workers fly to overseas, and ACS started flying workers into Germany three weeks ago, with eight flights so far and more on the way.