How is COVID19 impacting upon flour supply?

If you’ve been to the supermarket in the last 4 weeks you would have noticed a distinct lack of certain products. Initially toilet roll was flying off the shelves along with antibacterial hand wash and pasta but whilst they have all been successfully restocked, flour is still noticeably missing from the shelves. Why is that? We took a look into how and why flour production has been disrupted by COVID19.


In the early days of the lockdown, people panicked and part of that was to stockpile certain items. Flour fell into that category since bread was initially hard to come by but when bread supplies recovered, flour was still sought after. It stands to reason that people have more time on their hands and want to bake more, who doesn’t want some lovely cake when stuck at home in quarantine? According to the BBC, grocery sales of flour were up 92% in the four weeks up to 22nd March compared to the same period last year. But surely this increase in demand can’t be solely responsible, other products are also in demand but not suffering the same delays.

The UK works on a ‘just-in-time’ basis with about 3-5 days supply of grains stored at mills, 1-3 days worth of flour at mills and 1-2 days flour requirement at bakeries. This sharp rise in demand has driven the industry to seriously increase its rate of production. NABIM (National Association of British & Irish Millers) say the industry is working around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but despite this, they’re still struggling to meet demand.

Director General of NABIM, Alex Waugh, stated the issue isn’t being able to mill enough flour but the lack of capacity to pack it into smaller bags for retailers. In the UK, only about 4% of flour produced is sold via supermarkets and shops. Most of it is bulk produced and delivered in tankers or bags of more than 16kg to commercial bakeries and other food manufacturers.

With the flour industry running at its current, full capacity, there is only enough flour reaching supermarkets for 15% of households to buy 1 bag a week. For now it seems commercial supply lines aren’t being badly affected but domestic buyers will have to be patient and wait for stock levels to rebuild.

We hope you are all keeping well and staying safe. If you are part of a medium to. large scale bakery and would like to discuss how Magnacoolers could improve your production capability, you can speak to a member of our team by emailing us on info@magnacool.co.uk or calling us on +44 (0) 1159 659539.

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