Monthly Archives

May 2020

British Growers Covid 19 update

By Industry News

Praise for the UK food industry

During questions to Defra ministers in the House of Commons yesterday, Defra Secretary of State Rt Hon George Eustice MP was keen to praise the efforts of the food supply chain over the last weeks to keep the nation fed. He remarked that “our food manufacturers increased output by some 50%”. He also said “the crisis has brought home the crucial importance of domestic food production. We are fortunate to have some of the most innovative food manufacturers and producers in the world, and I pay tribute to all they have done in recent months.”

Food Standards Agency guidance

This guidance from the FSA relates specifically to food production

Further guidance: although this guidance which is intended for use in factories, it has got some useful information about how to deal with potential COVID 19 risks in the workplace.

GLAA support for farms

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority has contacted agricultural labour sites across the south of England and Wales to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Advice on how to spot the signs of labour exploitation and where to report concerns has been issued ahead of the GLAA visiting farms directly over upcoming weeks to give further guidance to the industry.

The engagement activity ties in with the temporary licensing scheme established by the GLAA for the food production sector in March, the agency said.

Temporary licences are currently being granted to businesses operating within the wider labour supply industry who wish to support GLAA licence holders to feed the nation.

Phase two of the operation will see GLAA investigators conduct welfare visits to ensure that farmers are getting the help that they need and that their workers are not at risk of exploitation.

Public Health Measures for all UK arrivals

On Friday, 22nd May, the Home Office announced border measures that will be applied to all international arrives from the 8th June and reviewed every 3 weeks. The reasoning behind the measures is to manage the risk of transmission being reintroduced from abroad to avoid a second wave of infection.

Alternative quarantine arrangements have been put int place in “recognition of the critical contribution seasonal agricultural workers in the edible horticulture sector make to the food supply chain and the time criticality of the picking season.” Full information on how these measures will work will be available shortly. In essence, during the first 14 days of a workers arrival, they will be able to work but they will be required to stay on the farm; there will be a set of defined exceptional circumstances available with the full guidance.

If you have any queries please direct them to accesstolabourfoodchain@defra.gov.uk .

Online Grocery sales up by 33%

The UK’s online grocery market will expand by a third in 2020, according to projections by Mintel, and will be worth £17.9 billion by 2024. Moreover, the changes to consumer behaviour brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, are likely to be long-lasting. UK consumers are expected set to spend £16.8 billion on internet groceries in 2020, up from £12.7bn in 2019. This comes after growth had been slowing down since 2015, reaching just 2.9% in 2019.

The Mintel survey was carried out between 28 February and 23 April and found that 36% of British consumers reported increasing their online shopping, with 50% trying to limit the time they spend in bricks-and-mortar stores and 9% using click-and-collect more frequently.

Amazon – Is this the next big disruptor in the grocery market

In the face of growing demand for online groceries, Amazon has announced plans to launch a super-fast delivery service of fresh products in the UK, reports The Grocer. The service will be free for Prime subscribers and is aimed at bringing rapid grocery delivery to nearly 40% cent of the country’s households by the end of 2020. The Ultra Fast grocery delivery service is already available to Prime members in the US.

Amazon is making this move at a time when the UK’s largest online grocer Ocado is reported to be struggling to open additional delivery slots due to unprecedented demand during the coronavirus lockdown and has been forced to limit delivery slots to existing customers only.

Could home delivery of fruit and veg become part of the new normal.

Source:- The Food Foundation

Stay safe in these difficult times.

British Growers Team

British Growers News Update: Covid 19

By Company News, Industry News

Govt COVID recovery strategy

This is quite a long read and there is not much which is specific to fresh produce, but it is quite interesting and provides some useful background. Covid recovery strategy.

 

Quarantine arrangements for International travellers

This is the statement from Govt about international travellers:

The Government will require all international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government. The Government is working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate implementation across the UK.

Small exemptions to these measures will be in place to provide for continued security of supply into the UK and so as not to impede work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations. All journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures.

These international travel measures will not come into force on 13th May but will be introduced as soon as possible. Further details, and guidance, will be set out shortly, and the measures and list of exemptions will be kept under regular review.

Defra is aware of the issue surrounding seasonal workers and a range of other international arrivals into the UK that are critical to the effective functioning of the food sector. We are expecting the list of exemptions to be published shortly.

 

Updated travel advice

One of the many challenges facing growers is the transport of growers to and from site. The Govt has recently updated its advice, there is a specific section on the use of private cars and other vehicles.

 

Guidance for construction and outdoor workers

The Govt. advice for outdoor workers has been updated.

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) extended

The Chancellor has confirmed that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended for 4 months until the end of October. From now until the end of July there will be no changes to the current scheme. From August, there will be greater flexibility for employers having the opportunity to part time furlough which will help to support the transition back to work. Between August and October, employers will share the cost of the 80% furloughed salary with government. Further details regarding implementation of this scheme will be announced by the end of May.

 

Seasonal labour – Call for Evidence

On 13th May the Migration Advisory Committee launched a 6 week call for evidence focussed on a review of the shortage occupation lists. Sectors are recommended to share their recruitment experiences with the Committee, and these will inform the recommendations when it reports to the Home Secretary in September 2020. The Committee acknowledges the extra pressures businesses are under as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and this will be reflected in the final report.

Further information here.

 

Veg Power seasonal veg campaign

As a result of a chance conversation with someone in Defra, Veg Power has been commissioned to promote the purchase and consumption of in-season vegetables using social media, web and PR. The campaign will launch in late May and run for 2 months, and possibly beyond. Veg Power will be mobilising a network of chef’s, nutritionists, food writers, supermarkets and media outlets to champion in-season vegetables. As part of the campaign, Veg Power is keen to push growers to the fore, to tell the story of how vegetables get to store and build excitement.

The range of crops they are looking to promote includes:

Asparagus

Cucumbers

Mushrooms

Salad Leaves

Courgettes

Tomatoes

Beetroot.

The promotion is due to begin in late May and run through to July.

… a bit more from the Veg Power campaign

If UK diets hit current recommendations for veg, it’s estimated that we could see:

21,000 premature deaths avoided every year [GBD, 2017]

84% growth of the UK horticultural sector [Food Foundation, 2020]

March was the biggest month EVER for grocery sales

Retailers benefit, with 22% sales growth w/e March 22nd

Boost for convenience and independent stores (30% growth) and veg boxes schemes (111% growth)

 

What did we buy during lockdown?

 

 

 

Where did we buy it from?

 

British Growers News Update: Covid 19

By Company News, Industry News

Support during the Coronavirus outbreak – CBILS and farming businesses

 

Background

On the 3rd April the Government announced extensions to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which was originally launched on the 23rd March as part of a package of measures to support businesses hit by Coronavirus. This means that all viable small businesses affected by Coronavirus, and not just those viable businesses unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible if the lender believes they will need finance to see them through these unprecedented times. This means many more farming businesses are now eligible to take part in the scheme.

 What is the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supports viable small and medium-sized businesses experiencing difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak to access finance, if external finance is the right answer.

The scheme helps all viable UK-based businesses with an annual turnover of up to £45 million, to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to 6 years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment (BIP) to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees. This means smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

By providing an 80% government guarantee on eligible lending, this scheme gives over 40 lenders the confidence to keep lending to viable businesses that have been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak but are facing significant cash-flow difficulties in the short-term.

No lender can take a personal guarantee for a loan of less than £250,000 that is supported by the CBILS.

Over 40 accredited lenders provide loans supported by the scheme, including all the major banks.

Farming businesses

The agricultural sector has the same eligibility criteria as all of the other sectors within the CBILS eligibility criteria. An SME operating within the agricultural sector does not have to prove their eligibility in any different way to an SME operating in other sectors e.g. retail or manufacturing.

The maximum value of lending that can be delivered to an SME operating in the agricultural sector is the same as for any other sector i.e. £5m up to 6 years for term loans and asset finance, and 3 years for revolving credit and invoice finance.

The only difference relates to the level of the BIP (to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees) an agricultural SME can receive; this is restricted to a maximum of €100,000.

Do any other payments received reduce the amount of BIP that can be offered to farm businesses through CBILS?

Certain payments you receive may count towards the amount of BIP. In this instance, these payments are made under the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current Coronavirus outbreak. Other payments such as the Basic Payments Scheme, the Rural Development Programme for England, or those received as Agricultural de-minimis will not affect the value of BIP that can be made.

How do farm businesses apply for a CBILS loan?

In the first instance farming businesses should contact their usual finance provider. Following expansion of the scheme farming businesses should consider re-contacting their lender if they have previously been unsuccessful in securing finance, as they may now be eligible. Businesses may also consider approaching one of the other 40 accredited lenders if they have been unable to access the finance they need through their own bank.

UK Finance have issued a statement on behalf of the sector which announced that banks, building societies and credit card providers are committed to supporting their business customers in continuing to trade, and would encourage businesses to speak to their lender if they need finance.

What about larger businesses?

The new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £250 million. For firms with a turnover of more than £250 million the maximum loan is £50 million.

This will give banks the confidence to lend to more businesses which are impacted by coronavirus but which they would not lend to without CLBILS. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest.

Bounce Back Loan

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will launch on the 4th May 2020 and will help small and medium sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years with no repayments due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan. The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders. We will circulate further details about the scheme as they become available.

For further information visit GOV.UK or email agritrade@defra.gov.uk.

 

 

Government recovery strategy

A recent unofficial report suggests that seven guidance documents have been drawn up by cabinet office minister Michael Gove and business secretary Alok Sharma, and these will form the basis for the government’s proposals to get people back to work in the coming weeks. The documents cover workers in seven different settings: hotel and restaurant staff; those who work in other people’s homes; factory workers; people working outdoors; people working in vehicles; shop workers; and office workers.

Businesses with more than five employees must produce a written risk assessment of working conditions for their staff if they wish to reopen during the pandemic. But even after the first relaxation of some lockdown measures, expected to be announced by Boris Johnson on Sunday, it will remain the case that those who can work from home must continue to do so.

 

 

Important announcement on changes to the deadline for the BPS scheme

2020 claim deadline extended to 15 June 2020

The government has confirmed that the deadline for 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue claims, Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims, and woodland legacy revenue claims, without penalty, is extended by one month to midnight on 15 June 2020, in recognition of the disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19).

The period for making amendments without penalty is extended to midnight on 30 June 2020.

The final deadline, with penalty, is extended to midnight on 10 July 2020.

 

Seasonal Workers update

Pick for Britain website has launched. The website is a joint public sector and industry initiative to bring together those who are looking for work on UK farms over the harvest period with recruiters who have roles to fill. The website will act as a central hub to signpost people to the jobs available and to provide information about this type of work.

 

Important announcement for RPA inspections

The RPA have been looking at ways of moving forward in relation to claims inspections whilst the current Government restrictions are in place. As all inspections visits to customers’ own premises have been cancelled, the RPA and DEFRA have put in place a number of options to complete the inspections remotely.

The options are: –

  • PO’s email documents to their RPA inspector.
  • Where documents cannot be emailed, the PO should contact their inspector for an address to post the documentation either by tracked post or with a reputable courier.
  • Where there are specific systems such as payroll, which cannot be downloaded, the RPA can view these remotely with the PO via Microsoft Teams.
  • Provide the inspector with access to your PO’s cloud through they could view data normally seen on site

As a last resort, the RPA will consider a limited inspection visit with full social distancing.

It is important to note that all these options apply to both annual 2019 claims where inspections were not completed prior to the lockdown as well as any arrears/interim claims for the 2020 operational programmes.