'We need a sense of urgency:' Farmers and supermarkets struggle with pingdemic exemption confusion

While exemptions from isolation have been announced for some parts of the economy, other areas are struggling with a lack of workers. With only some parts of the food industry exempted, the weakness is just shifted to another link in the chain.

It's the busiest time of the year for agricultural production here and across the UK, but despite the perfect weather there is a shadow across the industry.


Farming, like other critical sectors, is struggling to stay on track because of the impact of self-isolation rules, determined in large part by the NHS Test and Trace app.


You may not always get a signal in rural Britain but that has not stopped the pings. The government has offered no respite either, pointedly leaving farming out of the block-exemption for food producers and distributors.


Announced at 10pm on Thursday, under government embargo and after days of confusion and mixed messages, farming is one of many industries still struggling to understand what the proposed test-and-release regime means for them.


"I think there's real frustration that at the moment we don't know exactly what it means for our members and their businesses," says Tom Bradshaw, vice-president of the National Farmers' Union.


"And if you're looking at trying to secure continuity of supply right the way through, then you have to look at all parts of that supply chain, and not just think about the processing facilities further up the supply chain.


"The peas in the field don't know whether it's 16 August or 22 July, so when they're ready to harvest we've got to be able to harvest them, and unfortunately we have got businesses now that are under real pressure because people are having to self-isolate."


There is also continuing disquiet among supermarkets at the failure to include their retail staff in the exemption. Without them they argue shelves don't get stacked or online orders picked, and the weakness is just shifted to another link in the chain.


Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said: "We're encouraged to hear that supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers will be exempt from government rules, but deeply disappointed to see supermarket store workers omitted from the list.


"The food supply chain only works if teams are in place to support at each stage - there's no point in fixing the manufacturing and logistics issues if there is no one to put products on the shelves, serve customers at the till and deliver to their homes."


With even those industries covered in part by the exemption angry, it is no surprise those left out altogether are furious.


Source: Sky News