As Coronavirus spreads across the nation like wildfire, the Government has taken a laissez-faire approach to controlling the food supply. Boris Johnson’s cabinet have kept their hands off the reins of the food system, leaving food businesses get on with the job of managing everything from supply chain demands to consumer behaviour. The only emergency measure of note is the parliamentary bill which ensured those working in food supply were identified as key workers, allowing their children to attend schools during lockdown. Supermarket checkout staff in the big retailers have become the new hidden heroes on the frontline of our battle against this global pandemic.
Purchasing habits of consumers under lockdown have been restricted to a level previously unseen in the UK. All meals are new being eaten at home, with food being purchased from supermarkets, while boredom and cabin fever are driving people to the snack cupboard on an hourly basis. Food consumption is increasing, while the quantity of food being supplied by supermarkets is at an all time high, as consumers purchased an extra £1bn of food in the first three weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. Veg box suppliers have closed their subscriptions to new customers as they battle to deliver to existing and new customers.
Supermarket checkout staff in the big retailers have become the new hidden heroes on the frontline of our battle against this global pandemic.
Meanwhile, small stores and local food service businesses are facing total lockdown as they cease trading, or attempt to turn their business into a food delivery operation overnight. Many of these SMEs won’t survive. Many businesses are in a precarious position where either need to weather the Covid-19 storm or access government emergency funding.
On the retail side, the government is leaving big retailers to implement their own measures to control the demand and guide public around purchase limits. The current retail situation is on a par with wartime, yet the government has maintained its position in the background, failing to provide guidance or support on food. Researchers at top universities are urging the government to take action to ensure the whole country is fed equitably and to a good nutritional standard.
At this time, every sector needs the support it can get, from Tesco at the top of the retail pile, down to the smallest grocer, all organisations need a helping hand and the only people in a position to provide that help is the Government. Without their intervention and help, we’ll ultimately see many small business culled by the economic impact of Coronavirus while consumer’s money will be further concentrated into the hands of the largest supermarkets.
Supermarkets need to be applauded at this unprecedented time, for stepping up and taking control, to ensure every person has access to enough food. However, it would be an unfortunate result of the COVID-19 health crisis if it also served to kill off small business and grow the market share of the retail giants who already dominate food retail.