26 May 2020, 08:16 AM
  • Imported produce could pose a threat to food standards in the UK
Businesses advised to stay alert amidst supply chain imbalance

With an under-supply in some areas and surplus in others, this turbulent time has led to a severe imbalance in supply and demand across the food industry.

Experts have warned over concerns that European countries could soon dump stock into the UK market, which could affect British growers and producers. It comes as a coronavirus-linked oversupply of potatoes in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium could see the UK flooded with imported spuds later this year. This could put UK producers at a disadvantage as they compete with the European imports.

The wider growing sector also faces challenges presented by European imported produce destined for foodservice. It comes at a particularly difficult time for the farming sector, which was already struggling with poor growing conditions last autumn and winter.

Jack Ward, chief executive officer of the British Growers Association, noted that opening up the UK’s chip market could help: “I believe the Dutch and Belgium Governments have agreed support packages for their potato growers for this season. So while we are cutting production of potatoes in the UK, in Holland and Belgium, there is a lot of processing capacity,” he said. “We are looking at a mountain of cheap product, which will impact the market for the 2020 harvest.”

Businesses that may be reaching out to new suppliers or continuing to import ingredients from overseas are also being advised to be aware of any fraudulent imports. With ingredients that have seen a rapid inflation in price, cheaper alternatives that don’t meet the UK’s standards could work their way into the market.

Rice is one such product: with climate change posing a risk to crops, fears have arisen over pesticide use in countries such as Vietnam, India and Pakistan. Most recently, horsemeat disguised as beef destined for the European market was seized as criminals continue to take advantage of closed borders. With the pandemic putting a strain on various aspects of the industry, curtailed safety and authenticity checks, even in the UK, add an additional layer of concern.

To help protect themselves, businesses are urged to be vigilant now more than ever, whilst supporting British growers and producers could prove invaluable.

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