Business

Plan to safeguard supply of critical imports as Red Sea disruption deepens

A plan to boost the security of critical imports has been revealed by the government following a host of disruptions to global supply chains.

The Department for Business and Trade said it had been working with key industry groups for several weeks to identify products the country could not do without and should be “safeguarded”.

These included goods from medicines to microchips, it stated.

Part of the Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy will see the creation of an online portal for sectors to report sourcing difficulties and receive government help in securing supplies.

A Critical Imports Council will also be set up, in partnership with business, in a bid to build supply chain resilience.

Challenges have mounted since Brexit.

The COVID pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also complicated trade flow norms, with vital supplies from Asia the latest to face problems due to attacks on shipping that have forced freight away from the crucial Suez Canal gateway to Europe.

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‘It’s not safe to cross Red Sea’

It was reported on Tuesday that oil giant Shell had taken the decision last week to join a host of other major businesses in diverting supplies around the coast of Africa.

Such journeys take more than 10 days extra and, according to experts, will result in a spike in the cost of imported goods.

Minister for Industry and Economic Security, Nusrat Ghani, said of the headwinds: “That’s why we’re taking action to ensure crucial imports like medicines can reach consumers, no matter what happens around the world.

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“With this strategy we’re equipping business so they no longer have to rely on unpredictable partners for supplies of the goods that keep our country going.”

The partnership was welcomed in the business community, which has had a rocky relationship with the government since the country’s departure from the European Union.

A perceived lack of action to support firms has been among the bugbears.

But the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s chief executive, Richard Torbett, said of the announcement: “Recent global events like the pandemic have shown that our industry can manage and address global supply chain shocks, especially when working collaboratively with government, and this strategy supports our industry in doing so going forward.”

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