The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) is the UK agrisupply industry’s leading trade association, representing several sectors including animal feed, crop protection and agronomy, fertilisers, grain and oilseed and seed.
The trade group stressed its members companies are reacting to and preparing for the rapid spread of coronavirus and the resulting impact it will have on the UK’s availability of food and feed.
Flexibility for workers urged
“During this difficult time, our member employees will all have a role to play, from mill works and lorry drivers to lab technicians and agronomists. We must work together to maintain continued supplies of inputs, astute advice to farms, collection of produce from farms, and onward delivery to a range of processing destinations.
"It is important at this time to appreciate that flexibility may be required in order to ensure that businesses receive what they need when they need it. The industry needs to be practical in its approach.”
It is working with the UK government to ensure that supplies from AIC member companies can continue with the least amount of interruption.
“We do need support from the government to introduce flexibility on driver hours, working time directive, feed labelling and border checks, to name just a few.”
It is vital that the government recognises the critical role that all AIC member employees play in continuing to secure an unbroken supply of food to shop shelves, said the industry representatives.
“To this end, we have asked for details of how the government would categorise and manage essential worker movements in the event of movement restrictions.”
Possibility of remote audits
In terms of the evolving advice from the UK government on minimising virus spread and containment, the trade group said all onsite scheme audits will be suspended until the end of April.
“The duration of the suspension will be regularly reviewed, and participants will be kept informed of any updates,” it added.
In conjunction with scheme certification bodies, the AIC is looking to develop, during the suspension period, a system of remote auditing, in order to ensure that participants can continue to demonstrate compliance with the scheme requirements.
“As this system is developed, participants will be informed and dates for these remote audits will be agreed. It is envisaged that an element of onsite auditing will still be required in the future as and when this becomes feasible.”
Feed and food safety, fertiliser security and seed dressing safety remain of the utmost importance for the agri-food supply chain, said the AIC.
“In this period, we do not foresee any relaxation of standards in this area. Our aim is to help support the agri-supply industry during this pandemic and hope the above actions will go some way towards doing so. Participants are asked to keep relevant certification bodies informed of any specific issues they are facing in terms of hosting a remote audit, particularly due to staff absence.”