McDonalds ( has already been forced to remove milkshakes from its menu in the UK and Nando’s has closed 45 restaurants because it was missing its signature dish peri peri chicken. But suppliers warn of further disruption, which means Britons may have to go without holiday staples such as turkey and pigs in blankets when they celebrate the first Christmas after entry into force of Brexit. )
Domestic chicken production has already been cut by 10%, according to the British Poultry Council, which says 16% of jobs in the industry are currently unfilled. The production of Christmas turkeys will be reduced by a fifth, estimates the industrial group.
“When you don’t have people, you have a problem – and that’s something we see throughout the supply chain. The jobs crisis is a Brexit issue, and an issue that has been widely reported in the food and drink industry, ”Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said in a statement.
Supermarkets warn shortages could worsen ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. Richard Walker, managing director of the Iceland supermarket chain, told BBC Radio on Wednesday that stores were already running low on some items, including bread and soft drinks. Meanwhile, the chain is struggling to build up the necessary stock for the high season.
Other grocery chains are in a similar position. Supermarket giant Tesco ( said Thursday it was suffering from pockets of low availability on a number of products, while rival Co-op said it was recruiting up to 3,000 temporary workers to help keep its shelves fully stocked. )
“The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I’ve seen,” Co-op CEO Steve Murrells told UK newspaper The Times.
Industry groups blamed labor shortages on a tight labor market and an exodus of EU nationals from trucker, farming and food processing jobs. According to the Road Haulage Association, the UK is short of around 100,000 truck drivers, including 20,000 EU nationals who left the country after Brexit.
Global supply chains are under tremendous pressure from the fallout from the coronavirus. And in recent months, staff shortages in Britain have been exacerbated by rules that required people to self-isolate if they come in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. These rules have since been removed, but the problem does not go away.
Meat packing plants are suffering from a staff shortage of around 14%, according to the British Meat Processors Association. Nick Allen, CEO of the group, told the BBC last week that the industry had “lost more and more workers to Europe” after Brexit, and now has six weeks of employment. delay on producing pigs in blankets – or sausages wrapped in bacon – for Christmas meals.
“We have a very resilient food supply chain and a well-established way of working with the food industry to deal with disruptions in the food supply chain,” a UK government spokesperson said in a statement.
No easy solution
Employers have been unable to hire replacement workers from the European Union due to stricter immigration rules imposed by the UK government following Brexit. Instead, some companies, including Tesco ( offer signing bonuses of £ 1,000 ($ 1,375) to drivers. )
But that might not attract enough workers to a job market with a record one million job vacancies and an unemployment rate below 5%. Walker of the Iceland supermarket said the government had exacerbated the shortage of truck drivers by excluding the profession from a list of “skilled workers” that would allow more immigration.
“This is because the government has not understood the importance of [truck] drivers and the work they do for us. But even if they were immediately added, it would take four to six weeks as they have to get the right to work [document] and have a PCR [coronavirus] test, a place to live – they need to be recruited. So it’s not a switch that will happen overnight, ”he told BBC Radio.
Helen Dickinson, managing director of the British Retail Consortium, called on the government to rapidly increase the number of test drives organized for truck drivers, provide temporary visas to EU workers and change the way training of drivers is funded.
Griffiths, of the British Poultry Council, said the government should also extend a program for seasonal agricultural workers to the meat sector.
“Our demands are clear and they offer the government a way out of this problem. If that means relaxing immigration rules or accepting regulatory alignment with the EU, then these are the steps that need to be taken to put British food back on track, ”he said.
The UK government has announced measures to increase the number of test drives for truck drivers. But a government spokesperson said “most of the solutions” will come from industry.
“We want employers to invest for the long term in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on foreign labor and our Jobs Plan is helping people across the country to retrain, to acquire new skills and return to work, ”added the spokesperson.