The National Farmers Union (NFU) has vocalised concern about the new isolation exemptions for food manufacturing and supermarket depot workers, claiming that the new policy “doesn’t go far enough to avoid disruption” further down the supply chain.

Some staff in the food supply chain industry are now exempt from self-isolation rules as the government tries to prevent food supply problems. Food manufacturing and supermarket depot workers contacted by NHS Test and Trace are now able to continue working if they test negative daily, whether or not they are vaccinated.

This intervention, the government said, should alleviate concerns in the food industry about supplies and lack of availability on retail shelves.

Responding to the announcement that some UK food workers can apply for exemptions from isolating, NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “While this is good news and will help ease pressures for many businesses within the food supply chain, such as processing plants and distribution centres, it doesn’t go far enough to avoid disruption further down the chain – particularly for those who can offer more Covid security while keeping food supply moving.”

Bradshaw added that it was important to think about the whole food supply chain right back to the farm “because they produce the food that keeps processing plants and distribution centres going.”

He continued: “We are hearing reports from farmers and growers who have robust Covid security plans in place but are increasingly concerned about workforce shortages, especially as the rise in Covid cases coincides with the start of harvest and when the picking and packing of fruit and veg is in full swing.”