What does the free trade agreement mean for your food supply? And what can schools be doing now?

Sponsored: Mike Meek, procurement director at allmanhall, analyses the situation

It is a positive outcome for producers and consumers alike that a free trade agreement has been struck with the EU prior to the end of the transition period, although the full impacts are yet to materialise.

A no-deal scenario has been averted and tariffs and quotas will not be enacted upon most goods. However, the frictionless cross-border trade with the EU that the UK was used to is no more. There are significant changes to import and export rules, and this has generated additional red tape and disruption.

For the food and drink sector, these changes include sanitary and phytosanitary controls, which are measures to protect human, animal and plant health.

Another key challenge to the interconnected supply chain involves ‘rules of origin’ requirements, which ensure that third parties pay the requisite tariffs.

These, in essence, dictate a product’s country of origin and are determined by how much processing has been undertaken and the levels of third-country inputs used within the process. It has been reported that many companies have been caught out by the increased levels of administration required to provide proof of origin or have been unexpectedly liable for tariff payments.

Whilst the disruption of a no-deal scenario has been avoided, the true cost impacts are yet to fully materialise. Over the course of the next few months, we will start to understand how organisations and supply chains are adapting and the scale of any cost and quality impacts. Further afield, we wait to see the potential benefits of new trade agreements.

Any suggestions that these costs will not lead to an increase in food prices should be taken with a really hefty pinch of salt – Dominic Gouldie, head of international trade, Food and Drink Federation

Four key things catering operations within schools can be doing

1. Stocking up – increasing stock levels of ambient and frozen products may alleviate any initial challenges on fresh produce from the EU. Using frozen veg and tinned fruit may need to be an option.

2. Using a higher proportion of UK product – this should reduce the chance of border disruption. However, do be aware that constituent ingredients used in UK food manufacture may be impacted.

3. Being flexible around your offering – be prepared to order own-label instead of branded goods where availability issues or cost increases occur. There may be a need to be flexible on the quality of fresh produce. You can also increase your order lead time. For example, it is not recommended to order day one for delivery on day two for use on day two. Operational flexibility is key. Supply disruption may cause increased product substitutions, so it is imperative that your allergen management processes and best practice are followed.

4. Communicating – ensure that you are regularly talking to your suppliers and advising your consumers and wider stakeholders to ensure that supply
challenges are understood. With the added level of disruption and change in delivery days and routes due to the recent Covid-19 lockdown, this need for communication is vital.

Established in 2006, allmanhall is an independent, family owned and managed business providing expert food procurement and supply chain management, combined with hands-on catering and nutrition advice.

Working in a partnership with its independent education clients, allmanhall’s purpose is to deliver the best food, the best cost savings and the best support.

Mike Meek, procurement director at allmanhall, has been providing commentary and analysis on Brexit and the impact of possible outcomes for the past few years and is also on the University of Warwick advisory committee to the government regarding food supply.

For more information, please visit allmanhall.co.uk or email Jo Hall at jo.hall@allmanhall.co.uk

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