Britons might not have access to all of their favorite foods during the holiday season this year as Christmas dinner could be affected by food shortages in supermarkets. The industry has warned that Brexit, the pandemic and the shortage of truck drivers are creating serious supply chain problems.
There are around 100,000 fewer truck drivers than the country needs, and supermarkets, including Iceland, have warned that will leave gaps on the shelves.
Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told Yahoo Finance UK that “Christmas dinner faces three different threats”: a shortage of truck drivers, a shortage of workers at meat processing plants and potato crops in Europe affected by flooding.
“The shortages that consumers are seeing at Nando’s and McDonalds in recent days and weeks highlight the immense impact this is having on businesses across the country,” Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland Foods, told Yahoo Finance UK.
“We have already seen deliveries to our stores canceled for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and this is only due to the shortage of truck drivers. “
“The real concern is that time is running out as the extremely busy Christmas season approaches, when a strong supply chain is vital for everyone. “
Speaking to Radio 4, Walker said, “Soft drinks are 50% less in terms of volume.”
Coles, meanwhile, cited research from the Confederation of British Industry which found stocks held by large retailers were at their lowest since the 1980s. She said supermarkets were starting to build up their stocks. in September, so the issues now will hit Christmas later.
Driver shortage won’t be easy to solve: It’s the perfect combination of a Brexit storm making it less attractive for European drivers to work in the UK, COVID encouraging foreign workers to return to their families and the rules tax making it harder for drivers to claim they are self-employed, which means they earn less.
The second threat is the labor shortage in meat processing plants.
Read more: Why is the UK facing a shortage of truck drivers and what could this mean for consumers?
This was already a problem due to the ‘pingemia’ – workers were asked to self-isolate by the NHS app because they had come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, even though workers had been vaccinated .
It’s gotten worse now that the economy has opened up.
Back then, workers were typically processing frozen meat for the table – like pigs in blankets – and they’re already producing less than usual. Turkey production is down 20%.
The British Meat Industry Group has warned that meat companies are already around six weeks behind their Christmas production schedules.
“It now seems inevitable that there will be a shortage of more complicated lines like pigs in blankets and gammon roasts. With the current labor shortages, meat companies are struggling to see how they are going to cope, ”he warned.
The ripple effect of not having a staff to process the meat means that the farmers cannot send the animals to slaughter as they normally would, so many of them decided to reduce the number that they they breed, Coles said.
“At this point, they’re not planning any empty tables for Christmas, but there will likely be a lot less choice,” she said.
The third threat is a specific threat to roasted potatoes, as floods in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands affect potato crops.
This affects the potatoes usually used for making potato chips, but as the industry sources elsewhere, it could also impact the potatoes available for roasting this Christmas.
“And that’s just Christmas dinner. There are also warnings that shipping issues and computer chip shortages could mean the shelves are empty of popular gifts as well, ”Coles said.
The message from Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium was not so ominous.
He said: “While we do not anticipate any problems, retailers will take whatever steps are necessary to mitigate any possible disruption.”
“This includes paying extra to secure truck drivers and bringing in non-perishable goods early or via alternate routes, to avoid a last minute rush on shipping.”
Watch: UK economic recovery falters due to supply chain issues