CALLS are mounting for financial support for food businesses forced to close because of coronavirus outbreaks.
They come as Banham Poultry reopens after partially suspending operations at its Attleborough processing site three weeks ago following staff members tested positive for Covid-19.
All 800 employees on-site were then tested, with 127 positive results recorded. Most were asymptomatic cases.
Banham Poultry subsequently ran up losses of more than £2m a week as it was forced to sell birds to other companies or cull broilers on farm.
Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman has led calls for the business and others similarly affected to receive compensation.
When we ask a business to shut down to help avoid Covid spreading thru it’s workforce, like @BanhamPoultryUK (which has now lost £7m & received NO support in the spring because it was a key Food Supplier) it’s only fair that we help them minimise business damage: @norfolkchamber pic.twitter.com/cXR1g9Q7CV— George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP) September 10, 2020
He has said that not offering firms financial support creates an incentive not to report an outbreak, potentially increasing the risk of wider outbreaks.
Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr Freeman said: “The company has had to shut down its plant, slaughter or sell millions of pounds worth of its chickens to competitors for pennies without the compensation it would normally receive for culling in animal health, incurring losses of about £2m a week, which the two family shareholders have made clear is unsustainable.”
Banham Poultry managing director Blaine von Rensburg told the BBC: “Poultry businesses have extremely long supply chains, with money locked up in livestock.
“When processing facilities are shut down, it has an impact.
“We also reiterate our call to the government to provide compensatory frameworks for businesses who, through no fault of their own, have had to shut down due to Covid-19,” he added.
The processing plant is now operational and has installed further measures including temperature checks and a dry disinfection mist for staff. A one-way system has also been introduced across the site.
The British Poultry Council has said it is in talks with the government about cases in poultry slaughterhouses, and how to keep sites operational if another processing plant is affected.