Refrigerated food will struggle to reach some stores in the UK this summer, logistics organizations have warned, due to a lack of drivers and production workers.
A chronic shortage of truck drivers, exacerbated by Brexit and Covid, now faces unusually high summer demand as the end of the lockdown and the opening of the hotel business combine with the UK’s forced stay.
Small stores have already been hit, with late deliveries meaning lost sales and greater waste of refrigerated goods, according to reports from trade newspaper The Grocer.
“The real crisis in the food supply is starting now,” said Shane Brennan, managing director of the Cold Chain Federation, which represents frozen and refrigerated transportation and storage companies. “It looks very different from the past crises we’ve been through – the lockdown and the Brexit preparations. This time we are trying to do the job without manpower and it is a very different challenge.
Brennan said the shortage of workers was also being felt in packaging, production facilities and warehouses. With large numbers of foreign workers returning home during the pandemic and Britain’s exit from the EU discouraging newcomers, competition for domestic labor has become intense and many employers are unable to fill them. posts.
“It will be a turnover problem – there will be breakdowns day by day. The supply chain is struggling, ”said Brennan.
The British Meat Processors Association said this week it was “heading towards a brick wall” on labor shortages. He said production capacity was down 10% because people and skills were not available in the UK. Nick Allen, the managing director, said: “Our problems started with Brexit and Covid made them worse. And the opening of pubs and hotels has increased the demand for labor. The whole food industry is really in trouble right now. “
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) dismissed fears of empty shelves, although it said there had been a “minor disruption” in some supply chains, adding: “Supermarkets are working closely with their suppliers to ensure that consumers always have access to the same large selection of goods. “
Tamara Hill, Employment Policy Advisor at BRC, said: “Currently there is a very high demand for staff in warehousing and logistics, especially truck drivers and food processing centers. , which has resulted in shortages in these areas. “
Many of these roles have traditionally been filled by non-British skilled workers, Hill said.
Organizations have been pushing for short-term access to European labor until more UK-based drivers can be found.
A summit meeting with logistics companies and transport ministers was held on Wednesday to discuss the driver shortage. The Road Haulage Association said it has “provided overwhelming evidence that the shortage is worsening. The situation must be resolved now. “
Logistics UK said nearly 30% of its member companies were unsuccessfully looking for drivers. Alex Veitch, chief public policy officer, said at least 30,000 driving tests have been postponed due to the pandemic and should be expedited now. “This has left thousands of potential heavy truck drivers on hold when the UK needs it most. “