Supermarket bosses warn there could be food shortages at Christmas

26 August 2021, 13:52

Shoppers might miss out on their festive favourites
Shoppers might miss out on their festive favourites. Picture: Alamy

By Heart

Brexit has caused a shortage of HGV drivers, an increase in red tape for hauliers coming in to the UK, and a drop in EU-born food plant workers.

There could be food shortages of Christmas due to supply chain issues triggered by Brexit.

Bosses from Tesco, Iceland and The Co-Op have warned that some products we usually take for granted might not make it to shelves this December.

Since the UK officially left the EU earlier this year, there has been huge queues on both sides of the Channel as drivers are forced to fill in numerous forms and cargo is checked, causing catastrophic delays in goods entering and leaving the country.

Some fresh produce is spoiled before it arrives at its destination, or even before it has crossed the UK/EU border.

Adding to the issue are a shortage of European HGV drivers and food pickers and packers after many returned to their home country after Brexit.

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Christmas dinner is the most important meal for many families
Christmas dinner is the most important meal for many families. Picture: Alamy

With supermarkets and retailers already struggling to keep up with demand from shoppers, they have been unable to stockpile goods for the festive season, which could mean some things are not available, or sell out much quicker than usual.

Tesco chairman John Allan said: "At the moment we’re running very hard just to keep on top of the existing demand and there isn’t the capacity to build stocks that we’d like to see. So, in that sense, I think there may be some shortages at Christmas.

"But, again, I wouldn’t want to over-dramatise the extent to which that would be the case, I think it’s very easy to make a drama out of a modest crisis."

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A similar sentiment was shared by Iceland managing director Richard Walker who said: “Of course, we’ve got Christmas around the corner, and in retail we start to stockbuild really from September onwards for what is a hugely important time of year.

"We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas, and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.

"The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute. I’d hate this one to be problematic as well."

Staff at The Co-Op have been given the opportunity to retrain as lorry drivers, with their chief exec Steve Murrells telling The Times that they had had to reduce product ranges.

He said: “The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen."

Recently Nandos, KFC and McDonald's have been forced to close or remove items from their menus due to stock issues.

It's estimated that there is currently a shortfall of around 100,000 drivers.

It takes 8 to 10 weeks to train to be a HGV driver, and includes a five day practical test. Category 1 drivers can earn up to £45,000.