UK supermarkets could face food shortages over Christmas due to a Brexit supply chain disruption, the Tesco chairman has warned.
John Allan, who has overseen the country’s largest grocer since 2015, said the government should change the rules for truck drivers to allow more emergency workers from overseas to help tackle the problem.
Retailers and restaurant chains, including Nando’s and McDonald’s, have been hit by product shortages, with meat packers and other manufacturers also facing significant labor shortages.
UK supermarkets could face Christmas food shortages due to Brexit supply chain disruption, Tesco chairman warned
Mr Allan told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that supermarkets would normally stockpile now before Christmas and that the ‘simple solution’ to driver shortages would be to ‘allow UK industry to bring in qualified drivers from elsewhere “.
“We are missing a lot of drivers, it’s a combination of many European drivers having decided to go home and also the aging age profile,” he added.
“I think Brexit has certainly contributed to this, but improving economies, higher wages in some of the countries they are from historically have also led to this flow. “
He said there could be shortages as a result, but stressed it was important not to “dramatize” the extent of this problem yet.
He said: “At the moment we are working very hard just to stay on top of existing demand and there is not the capacity to build up inventory that we would like to see. So in that sense, I think there may be some shortages at Christmas.
“But, again, I wouldn’t over-dramatize how much that would be, I think it’s very easy to make a drama out of a modest crisis. “
Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker also warned that the UK faces a “great shortage” of truck drivers, with this threat of Christmas products
Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker also warned that the UK faces a “great shortage” of truck drivers, with this threat of Christmas goods.
“Of course Christmas is just around the corner, and in retail we really start building inventory from September for an extremely important time of the year,” he said.
“We have a lot of cargo to move between now and Christmas, and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.
Islande MD, Richard Walker
“The reason we’re sounding the alarm bells now is that we already had a Christmas called off at the last minute. I would hate for this one to be problematic as well.
Mr Walker added that the channel has seen daily delivery cancellations as the disruption continues.
“We have had deliveries canceled for the first time since the start of the pandemic, around 30 to 40 deliveries per day,” he said.
The retailer said it has seen particular lines, such as bread and soft drinks, affected by the issues facing suppliers.
Steve Murrells, chief executive of the cooperative group, warned that the current food shortages are at a “worse level” than he has ever seen, with the company having to downsize its product line to help serve customers.
He told the Times newspaper: “The shortages are at a worse level than at any time that I have seen. “
Mr Murrells said the disruption in supply was due to ‘Brexit and the problems caused by Covid’, and the company is recycling its staff as truck drivers to help fill vacancies.
Road transport bosses have said around 100,000 drivers are missing, in part because of the UK’s exit during the pandemic of thousands of European drivers who have not yet returned.
Industry groups have also said that training new drivers takes months, making the lack of numbers difficult to resolve quickly.
Labor shortages, which also affected meat packing and fruit picking jobs, caused quick service stores and restaurants to fight for stock.
Subway and McDonald’s are among the latest victims of the shortage. Sandwich shop chain Subway said it had seen “minor shortages in the supply chain” but stressed that it had made sure that disruption to customers was minimal.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes in most of its UK restaurants due to ongoing supply issues. The hamburger chain has also found itself without bottled drinks at its 1,250 outlets in England, Scotland and Wales as the shortage of truck drivers wreaks havoc.
A spokesperson said the group “was working hard to get these items back on the menu.” It comes a week after restaurant chain Nando’s closed nearly 50 restaurants due to cutbacks in chicken supplies.
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