Government warned to act over material shortages

The government needs to urgently address escalating risks to the UK's supply of essential materials, according to a report out by EEF.

It says that the global growth in middle class consumers, increased demand for all commodities and an over reliance on China for strategic supplies, is leaving the UK vulnerable.

The report also warns that while other manufacturing nations have strategies in place to shield their economies from resource risks, the UK is 'lagging behind'.

Demand for all commodities is expected to rocket by 30 to 80% by 2030. However, the UK's supply of essential materials – ranging from silicon metal and rare earth elements through to coal – is concentrated.

In 2010 the EU deemed 14 materials to have supply risks. This has now increased to 20 and includes those used in consumer electronics and telecoms products, engineering/construction, aerospace and steel and aluminium production, to name just a few of their end-use markets in Europe.

Competitor nations, such as Germany and the USA, have already implemented sophisticated resource strategies seeking to minimise supply risks, enhance resource productivity and regulate waste for economic value. The UK government, however, has so far responded 'weakly' – EEF says.

The organisation is now urging the government to move to mitigate material supply risks by:
• Establishing an Office of Resource Management to strategically co-ordinate action across Whitehall
• Thoroughly and regularly assessing material supply risks and vulnerabilities
• Providing stronger incentives for resource efficiency to help overcome market failures
• Regulating waste so that we extract more economic value from what we discard.

Susanne Baker, senior policy advisor at EEF, said: "Manufacturers have sounded the alarm over the growing risks to material supply and others are now picking up the clarion call.

"But while competitor nations are already taking evasive action, our government is in danger of burying its head in the sand.

"There is clear case for a new Office of Resource Management to act as a central hub of expertise, data and stakeholder liaison and to co-ordinate the UK's response to these risks."

Author
Laura Hopperton

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