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Retail Trade: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL2967, tabled on 25 March 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to make sure there is sufficient stock in shops.

Answered on

8 April 2020

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. The industry has adapted quickly to changes in demand, and food supply into and across the UK is resilient.

To help the industry, the Government has already introduced new measures to keep food supply flowing. We have temporarily relaxed elements of competition law to enable supermarkets to work more closely together to ensure people can access the products they need. Food retailers are now able to share data on their stock levels, cooperate to keep stores open and share staff, distribution depots and delivery vehicles. This is helping keep shops open and staffed and better able to meet high demand. Guidance has been issued to local authorities to show flexibility to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets to ensure shelves can be replenished more quickly. The Transport Secretary has also announced a temporary and limited relaxation of the drivers’ hours rules so that more goods can be delivered to every store every day. We welcome the actions that the industry is taking, including hiring more staff, and prioritising delivery slots for those that need them most.

Representatives of our leading supermarkets have asked customers to shop considerately and we echo their call. Retailers have provided reassurance that there is plenty of stock available if people shop considerately and buy only what they need.

We are grateful for the extensive support and positive collaboration that the industry has shown. We should be proud of all those across the country who are working tirelessly to make sure people have the food they need.