While we know that what we consider ‘normality’ will not return in the immediate future, it is important for us to think about the future, even while we wrestle with the challenges and tragedies of the present.
Industry is still dealing with a degree of crisis management, but the time has come to spend a little time looking ahead.
The food industry agrees and some of its high-profile figures across the United Kingdom have published a ‘path to recovery’ post-Covid-19.
While praising the food industry’s efforts and particularly it’s ingenuity, the ‘pathway to recovery’ report requires Government action to future proof the sector.
Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) and coordinator of the report puts it succinctly when he says, in the short term “we need to protect our capacity in food production, ensuring our domestic farming, processing and food service sectors are able to emerge from this crisis intact”.
Over the coming weeks, NIFDA wants to engage the government to reassess its policy on food and drink – there should be a refreshed and renewed focus on the supply chain to ensure self-sufficiency of food across the UK.
The strain that Covid-19 has put on the food chain has exposed the inherent weaknesses in this approach, and now comes the opportunity to reverse that trend.
I would like to share some initial thoughts on recovery and how we might approach it in the coming weeks.
These have been extremely challenging times with workforces working harder than ever to ensure a continual supply of food.
The food sector needs enlightened support and financial assistance to secure its future post-coronavirus.
Companies have had to adapt to an ever-changing situation, responding admirably to fluctuations in demand and transforming factories.
All of the plans will need the flexibility to change direction as and when greater clarity over the full impact of the lockdown and the lifting of restrictions emerge.
For example, we are all starting to understand how fragile our agricultural systems are and how the relationship between people, land and animals in one part of the world can affect everyone everywhere.
The industry will also have to re-assess its priorities and investment plans recognising budgetary challenges in the year ahead.
We also should reflect on the many outstanding examples of collaborative working during the last few weeks, continue to strengthen communities across the UK and empower staff to be more involved in decision-making.
These are just a few thoughts about our early path to recovery. However, we have the advantage of having an innovative and imaginative food and beverage industry, so I want to hear from you.
I would like your reflections on lockdown: what you feel we have learned over the weeks, what you miss and what you think we should change when we reach a ‘new normal’.
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