The Federation of Bakers (FOB) is among trade bodies to have urged the government to ensure the continuation of critical imports and exports during the Covid-19 crisis.

A letter co-signed by FOB chief executive Gordon Polson, as well as representatives from other trade associations including the Food & Drink Federation, UK Hospitality and the Food and Drink Exporters Association, said “Covid-19 is the biggest threat this country has faced in decades”.

As such, they called on the government to allow trade to “flow freely and without restriction”.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that we keep imports and exports of food and drink flowing. Essential movements of ingredients and raw materials must continue, so that we can supply consumers across the UK,” the letter stated.

It added that the continuation of trading through open markets would be “absolutely vital” to help aid global economic recovery, as would the essential movements of ingredients and raw materials.

“We have seen some countries introduce trade restrictions that may have the unfortunate consequence of impeding the flow of goods between nations. While it is understandable that some may place temporary selective restrictions on exports where there is a direct threat posed to the ability of their communities to access affordable food and drink, it is incumbent on the UK and other developed nations to lead the way and reject moves towards protectionism.”

The letter went on to highlight the UK food and drink industry’s “international success story” which included the export of £23bn-worth of products each year. These, it stated, were essential to ensure UK businesses had access to working capital.

“Our industry cannot operate in isolation if we are to continue providing world-leading quality, choice and value for money.

“Our farmers rely on imported feed and need access to other markets to sell their products, especially where demand in the UK is insufficient. Our manufacturers rely on exports to grow their businesses and imports to complement their use of domestically produced ingredients and raw materials. Our restaurants and retailers need access to a full range of goods all year round to balance seasonality and meet consumer demand.”