BEIC calls on the UK Government to classify food production staff as a priority group for 2nd phase vaccination rollout
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has called on the UK Government to prioritise the key workers in the egg production chain for the second phase of the vaccination rollout to ensure that the industry has the resources to maintain a consistent supply of food.
With Government officials looking at who should be prioritised, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for a national debate on the issue, the UK Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi has also suggested that police officers, teachers and shopworkers could be added to the list of priority groups. While the BEIC recognises and supports the need for these groups to be vaccinated, it is concerned that the critical role those in the egg production chain play may be forgotten, despite the pressing need to keep the food supply chain running smoothly.
Mark Williams, Chief Executive of the British Egg Industry Council, said: “While we all recognise the fantastic and vital role that shopworkers have played throughout the pandemic, without food production workers, who are an indispensable component in getting food from our farms onto the plates of consumers, there would be nothing to fill the shelves.”
Due to the strict hygiene controls and highly sensitive environment in which food production and processing takes place, if there is an outbreak of the virus it will severely impact the food production chain. In addition, the egg industry has extremely high standards of animal welfare, something which is maintained through expertly trained staff. The self-isolation of entire teams can be acutely felt, due to the pressure on the supply of labour as a result of Brexit, compounded by the travel restrictions that are in place to control the pandemic.
The vaccination rollout has, to date, been a success and the BEIC believes that it is now vital that Government ensures that those who work in agriculture and the production of food are added to the vaccine priority list. The food industry is the largest component of the UK’s manufacturing sector, and the British egg industry alone is worth more than £1bn a year to the UK economy.
The first phase of the mass vaccination programme identified the following priority groups: people aged 80 and over; some people aged 70 and over; some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable; people who live or work in care homes; and health and social care workers. Identifying food production workers as a priority group for the second phase of the vaccination rollout will not only help ensure a safe and secure supply of food to the public, but also provide the egg industry with some much-needed reassurance and security during these challenging times.