veg supplier supply chain fresh

For the past three decades, the UK’s food supply chain has largely been taken for granted by successive governments. In a way, it’s a compliment – a reflection of our people’s extraordinary capabilities to operate reliably and overcome all challenges with neither fuss nor complaint.

But as Westminster gears up for this year’s general election, the nation needs politicians to take a much more active approach to the future of the temperature-controlled food supply chain.

This year’s general election marks a fork in the road for the sector. Each link in the food supply chain is vibrant, future-facing, and essential for the UK’s economy, environment and health, but we all face concerning challenges to our day-to-day operations and future progression. The next government’s early policy decisions must provide new support for businesses working to tackle these challenges and unlock the great potential in the industry.

The right policy environment can enable the food manufacturing, temperature-controlled logistics and food retailing industries to spur national economic growth, hasten progress towards net zero and safeguard food supply.

If the government fails to take those crucial early policy decisions, the operation of the food supply chain will become increasingly challenging. Not only will the UK miss out on valuable economic, environmental and societal benefits, but we will also experience an intensification of food price inflation, reduced choice on the shelves and greater uncertainty around food in times of crisis.

The policies that need to be enacted are not revolutionary. But they are significant enough to make a difference, and they do require government and industry to work more closely together to achieve our common goals.

We envisage a future in which renewable energy sources power highly energy-efficient cold chain infrastructure, providing safe, high-quality products while wasting even less valuable resources. The production of a clear government strategy for overcoming grid capacity restrictions at logistics sites, including cold stores, is essential to overcoming what has become a severe inhibition to green investment into the future UK energy system.

The next government will also need, urgently, to work alongside businesses so we can create together a cohesive and forward-looking plan for the food supply chain labour market, and for cold chain future skills development.

The last general election was pitched around ‘getting Brexit done’. Five years on, the UK is seeking to secure a new set of international relationships in our post-Brexit context. An effective, resilient and evolving UK food supply chain requires an EU import model and global trade agreements that ensure the smooth flow of temperature-controlled products into and out of the UK.

Inclusion of responsibility for the cold chain within the portfolio of a single government minister would create the focus required to spearhead cross-departmental work, and help ensure fulfilment of our industry’s great potential benefits for businesses, consumers, and public health. In the meantime, businesses across the food supply chain need politicians to commit to these policy changes now and prepare to put them into motion swiftly after the next government is formed.

This is why we are launching the Cold Chain Manifesto and intensifying our discussions with politicians of all parties. All those campaigning for power must recognise the changes needed at this crucial juncture for the food supply chain. And those sitting in Westminster when the new electoral term begins must be ready with the vision and tenacity to act.