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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to maintain supply chains for independent, small food retailers during the covid-19 outbreak.
We welcome the actions that the convenience sector is taking, including increasing home deliveries, supporting vulnerable customers by offering more flexible payment options, and adjusting product ranges to manage changes in consumer buying habits. Small retailers play a vital role in ensuring people have access to the food they need, particularly in isolated and rural communities.
The UK food sector has adapted quickly to unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure people have the food and products they need. We are confident in the resilience of the UK food supply chain.
To help industry, the Government introduced several regulatory easements to keep food supply flowing. These include asking local authorities to show flexibility to allow extended delivery hours and flexing rules on drivers’ hours to allow a higher frequency of deliveries to stores.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have intensified our discussions with the food industry, bringing together stakeholders from across the supply chain. We are monitoring the ongoing challenges of in-store stock with the Association of Convenience Stores. We are also monitoring the service levels from manufacturers to wholesalers supplying the small retail sector and supermarkets which show an improving picture.
We will continue to work closely with the industry.