02 Feb 2023
by Oli Hill, Ed Barker

AIC at 20: Getting Government recognition for agri-supply key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic


As AIC marks 20 years as the UK agri-supply industry’s leading trade association, we're looking back at some of its greatest achievements since it was founded in 2003.

Each week throughout 2023, we’ll explore a major achievement where AIC represented its Member businesses, promoted the benefits of modern commercial agriculture in the UK, and supported collaboration throughout the food chain.

This week we’re revisiting how AIC got the Government to recognise the vital role that agri-supply workers play in helping to keep the country fed during Covid-19.

Key worker status

The coronavirus pandemic was one of the most disruptive periods for lives and livelihoods since the Second World War when the Government imposed a strict national lockdown in March 2020.

Initially, AIC gained two successes on Covid-19 exemptions for agri-supply sector businesses to help feed the nation in a time of crisis.

The AIC team successfully lobbied that agri-supply sector staff, including agronomists, feed mill workers, fertiliser site staff, and technical staff should be considered as ‘key workers’ and were able to demonstrate this in guidance when challenged by authorities.

Key worker status meant employees were exempt from lockdown rules and were able to continue working while following guidance to protect themselves and others from the disease.

AIC was also successful in lobbying for agri-supply sites and premises to be permitted to stay open as businesses across the UK were forced to close.

The ‘pingdemic’

As the UK emerged from successive lockdowns, a new challenge unfolded – workers being told to self-isolate if they had come into contact with an infected individual.

This government rule to curb the disease’s spread saw millions of employees forced to miss work as they were instructed to stay at home by NHS Test and Trace or alerts on the NHS mobile app. This quickly became known as the “pingdemic”.

Between June and July 2021, people with two Covid-19 vaccinations were still required to self-isolate if contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

In July 2021, AIC successfully lobbied for agri-supply sector businesses to be exempt from self-isolation rules in England.

Exemptions were permitted for certain industries, and AIC lobbied on behalf of its Members to ensure agri-supply businesses were included on this list.

AIC explained to the Government that agri-supply sector businesses were needed to work across the supply chain.

As a result, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) allowed these businesses to make applications for exemptions to Covid-19 rules.

Watch the video below to find out more about AIC and the work it does on behalf of its Members.

Make sure you're following AIC on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates.

Visit the AIC at 20 webpage for more content like this.


Oli Hill

Oli Hill

Communications Manager, AIC

As Communications Manager, Oli creates and oversees the content published on AIC's website, emails, Member briefings, print publications, and social media.

A qualified multimedia journalist, he previously spent six years working at Farmers Weekly magazine as a Senior Reporter on the arable team, and latterly as Community Editor. More recently he was Communications Manager at Red Tractor.

[email protected]
01733 385230

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Ed Barker

Ed Barker

Head of Policy & External Affairs, AIC

[email protected]
01733 385271

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