2 SISTERS FOOD GROUP president Ranjit Singh has said there are ‘unique, era-defining’ challenges facing the food sector, with shortages in supermarkets likely without government intervention.
He detailed the challenges in a press release issued in late July, which we are publishing below.
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Mr Boparan said: “I have seen lots of change over the years – but nothing compares to now.
“The use of the term ‘perfect storm’ has become a cliché, but never has that been a truer phrase to use.
“No-one could possibly have predicted that this toxic cocktail would come together at this time. It started with the pandemic – and in the last week or so with ‘pingdemic’, but since May this year, the operating environment has deteriorated so profoundly I can see no other outcome than major food shortages in the UK.
“Supply of chicken and turkey is under threat.
“Our retail partners and the wider supply chain have worked together closer than ever before to ensure we retain food supply, and this is of huge credit to everyone.
“But we are at crisis point.
“We are operating in a framework that’s complete madness, and the government needs to be called out for sticking their heads in the sand.
Fundamental structural changes
“‘Pingdemic’ is not the issue for us. There’s fundamental structural changes going on here that need sorting.
“Why is the government still paying furlough to around two million people with the economy essentially open, and yet we have an ongoing labour crisis?
“Why is it not reclassifying our frontline workers to the correct status, so we have a corridor open for EU workers into the UK?
“Why is it not allowing for key workers in the food industry who are double vaccinated to continue their work when they are “pinged”?
‘Serious food shortages’
“The government needs to act immediately if it wants to avoid the most serious food shortages that this country has seen in over 75 years. Not acting would be irresponsible.”
“These are unique, era-defining challenges which we started to tackle head-on last year. But they’ve all come to a head in the past 12 weeks.
“Clearly, these have brought continued and intensive pressure on our business, just like they have elsewhere.
“This cannot be sustained indefinitely.
“The critical labour issue alone means we walk a tightrope every week at the moment.
‘Just about coping’
“We’re just about coping, but I can see if no support is forthcoming – and urgently – from Government, then shelves will be empty, food waste will rocket simply because it cannot be processed, or delivered, and the shortages we saw last year will be peanuts in comparison to what could come.”
Mr Boparan has called on the government to act now to support the sector given its unprecedented challenges.
He added: “Entry-level – that’s broadly unskilled – roles (requiring a Level 2 qualification) are where the sector is facing greatest difficulty. Poultry workers should be exempt from this, and government needs to think again on the entry thresholds for salaries and skills.
“What needs to happen is an entry route should be plotted, so workers face minimal administrative hurdles to get through to support businesses like ours.
“We also need recognition from the entire supply chain – that’s our suppliers, customers and ultimately the end consumer – that without the correct level of support, we are potentially facing a food crisis in the UK like we’ve never seen before.”