Coronavirus continues to roil UK meat supply chain

The COVID-19 pandemic can still disrupt abattoirs at short notice, illustrating the continued influence the disease has on the red meat supply chain.
calendar icon 1 December 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

A second consequence of COVID-19 is the disruption to supply chains resulting from consumer lockdowns.

“This week there has been welcome news of short-term relaxations of UK rules for the Christmas period but they still leave restaurants closed. This may prove to be good news for high street retailers of fresh meat and meat products but the balance of products to be sold may leave primary processors and manufacturers with a headache over carcase balance.

“As processors grapple with the vagaries of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who export meat to the EU are also trying to address and manage the impact of Brexit at the turn of the year. This of course is not helped by the lack of a conclusion to the Brexit discussions,” said Mr Ashworth.

However, what is clear is that the rules of trade will change on 1 January 2021 and significant disruption will occur. The cost of that disruption will vary depending upon whether the UK becomes a third country trader to the EU with tariff free and quota free arrangements or a third country trader without a trade deal.

“The simple solution is to stop exporting for a short period in January until everything becomes clear and exporters get to grips with the new rules. The more complex solution is to continue trading and learn the new rules on the job. Either move will inevitably lead to significant volatility on farm gate prices and in some scenarios and for some species a permanent move to lower farmgate prices,” concluded Mr Ashworth.

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