Covid-19 and the issues of security in food supply Contents

Introduction

1.On 23 March 2020, the Government announced the first national lockdown in England to tackle the spread of covid-19.1 This had a significant impact on the supply of food. In response, we launched an inquiry into covid-19 and food supply on 4 April 2020.2 Our report was published on 30 July 2020 and addressed: shops and supermarkets; food insecurity; the food services sector; key workers; and, food reliance and security.3 The Government responded to our report on 10 October 2020.4

2.As we concluded our first covid-19 and food supply inquiry, national lockdown restrictions in England were being eased. For example, some children returned to schools from the 1 June 2020, hospitality venues (such as pubs, restaurants and cafes) were permitted to trade from 4 July 2020 and the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) were advised they could stop shielding from 6 July 2020.5

3.Since then, the Government has sought to suppress covid-19 by imposing further local and national restrictions on social interaction and business activity. The first new national restrictions came on 22 September 2020, setting a 10pm curfew on hospitality venues.6 A three-tiered system of ‘local covid alert levels’ was announced on 12 October 2020.7 On 5 November 2020, England entered its second national lockdown (with schools, as well as food and drink takeaway services remaining open).8 On 8 November 2020, the Government announced a £170 million Covid-19 Winter Grant Scheme for councils in England to ensure “vulnerable households do not go hungry” over winter.9 The second lockdown ended on 2 December 2020 with an enhanced tiered system taking effect.10 After rising levels of infection, England entered its third lockdown on 5 January 2021; schools and hospitality venues were ordered to closed, and the CEV were advised to shield.11 The Prime Minister announced on 22 February 2021 that schools would reopen from 8 March 2021 with hospitality resuming, at the earliest, from 12 April 2021 in outdoor settings and 17 May 2021 in indoor settings.12

4.Given the continuing disruption caused by covid-19 since our first report in July 2020, we decided to hold a follow-up inquiry. It has sought to assess whether the issues identified in our first report have been resolved. We held two evidence sessions with business and charitable organisations, as well as the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, Victoria Prentis MP, and the Minister for Welfare Delivery, Will Quince MP. In addition, we held a limited call for evidence, with 42 responses, which asked:

a)How the pandemic and the Government’s response to it have affected food supply since July 2020;

b)What impact the current lockdown is having on food supply; and

c)What further actions the Government, public bodies and industry need to take.

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this inquiry.

2Inquiry on food supply during the coronavirus pandemic launched”, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee news story, 3rd April 2020,

3 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2019–21, “COVID-19 and food supply”, HC 263

4 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sixth Special Report of Session 2019–21, “COVID-19 and food supply: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report”, HC 841

5 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sixth Special Report of Session 2019–21, “COVID-19 and food supply: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report”, HC 841; GOV.UK, “PM announces easing of lockdown restrictions: 23 June 2020”, accessed 24 February 2021; “Coronavirus shielding scheme to be eased in England from 6 July”, The Guardian, 22 June 2020

6 Cabinet Office, “Coronavirus (COVID-19): What has changed – 22 September”, accessed 24 February 2021

7Prime Minister announces new local covid alert levels”, Prime Minister’s Office press release, 12 October 2020

8Prime Minister announces new national restrictions”, Prime Minister’s Office press release, 30 October 2020

9New winter package to provide further support for children and families”, Department for Work and Pensions press release, 8 November 2020

10 HM Government, “Coronavirus Tier 3”, accessed 24 February 2021

11 Prime Minister’s Office, “Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 5 January 2021”, accessed 25 February 2021; Cabinet Office, “Guidance: National lockdown: Stay at Home”, accessed 25 February 2021; “Government will not provide food boxes for shielding people this lockdown”, The Grocer, 8 January 2021

12 Cabinet Office, “COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 (Summary)”, accessed 25 February 2021




Published: 7 April 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement