COVID-19: Maintaining the supply of flour

The importance of flour

Flour is a staple food throughout the world, and the UK is no different with about 12 million loaves of bread, 2 million pizzas, and 10 million cakes and biscuits made every day. This can be achieved thanks to a daily production of about 14,000 tonnes of flour.  Roughly one third of all the food and drink product lines in a typical UK supermarket contain flour, so it really is central to the food production system. 

Stocks

Our supply chain operates on something close to a just in time basis with around 3-5 days' of grain supply at mills; 1-3 days’ worth of flour at mills; 1-2 days’ flour requirement at bakeries; and daily deliveries of bread to supermarkets and other retail outlets.

We need a steady supply of wheat to mills and flour to bakeries in order to keep the supply chain running smoothly: so the continuing availability of key staff including millers, engineers and drivers - with flexibility on the hours they can work and delivery times; and the continued availability of fuel and electricity are the most immediate priorities.

Critical nature of the flour milling industry

nabim has been making the case to government, and we are very hopeful that the critical nature of the industry will be recognised and addressed in various ways so that it can continue to operate at or close to capacity in spite of potenial staff absence related to illness or quarantine.  Meanwhile, industry has taken steps to protect its own staff by adapting working practice to minimise personal contact, extend the use of sanitisers and personal protection equipment.

nabim action: Best practice guide; industry data collection; regular updates

nabim is an active member of the the Cereals Liaison Group - a group of industry bodies that spans the entire cereals supply chain. The group is working together to ensure that logistical challenges in the production and delivery of cereals-based food are addressed. And to this point a Best Practice Guide for continuing operations has recently been published.

We are also collating industry-wide data from members on a daily basis. The aim of this is to capture the sector's current situation is regards to availability of stock, staff, fuel etc which can feed into predictions of future supply capabilities and highlight difficulties and bottlenecks.

Furthermore nabim will continue to produce updates on the issues pertitent to the flour milling industry during the pandemic. These can be accessed and downloaded on the right hand menu. 

We believe that it is the job of the milling industry to ensure that people get the food they need, and that it is the role of government to facilitate this in difficult circumstances. By working together, collating and sharing key data and pooling resources we can ensure both that the challenge of coronavirus is addressed and people are fed.