UK

Shoppers are ‘facing shortage of chilled food this summer due to lack of lorry drivers and Brexit’

British shoppers face a chilled food shortage ‘crisis’ this summer due to a lack of lorry drivers and production workers, experts have warned.

A double impact from Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic is said to have sparked disruption to the chilled food supply chain, industry insiders say.

And it means suppliers are struggling to bring items to supermarkets, with chilled food bosses warning of a spate of late deliveries and failed orders.

Chief executive of industry group, Cold Chain Federation, Shane Brennan, said the situation was now a ‘crisis’.

However, trade association British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that while there has been ‘minor disruption’, there would not be a shortage of food on shelves.

Mr Brennan told trade paper, The Grocer: ‘ This does feel very different to the past crises we’ve been through – the lockdown and Brexit preparations. 

A double impact from Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic is said to have sparked disruption to the chilled food supply chain, industry insiders say

A double impact from Brexit (pictured: Lorries line up at the Port of Dover during Operation Stack) and the Covid-19 pandemic is said to have sparked disruption to the chilled food supply chain, industry insiders say

A double impact from Brexit (pictured: Lorries line up at the Port of Dover during Operation Stack) and the Covid-19 pandemic is said to have sparked disruption to the chilled food supply chain, industry insiders say

It comes as it was revealed that Morrisons (pictured: A Morrisons' delivery van) is set to axe wholesale supply to independent convenience stores due to a lack of lorry drivers

It comes as it was revealed that Morrisons (pictured: A Morrisons’ delivery van) is set to axe wholesale supply to independent convenience stores due to a lack of lorry drivers

‘This time we’re trying to do the job without labour and that is a very different challenge.’

It comes as it was revealed that Morrisons is set to axe wholesale supply to independent convenience stores due to a lack of lorry drivers.

The supermarket chain, which has more than 500 of its own stores across the UK, has closed wholesale accounts for independent retailers it supplies to in order to prioritise its own customers.

Morrisons say the move will impact ‘fewer than 10’ of its customers.

It comes as The British Meat Processors Association (pictured: Chief executive Nick Allen) last week warned it was 'heading for a brick wall' on labour shortages

It comes as The British Meat Processors Association (pictured: Chief executive Nick Allen) last week warned it was ‘heading for a brick wall’ on labour shortages

A Morrisons spokesperson said: ‘Due to the national driver shortage, we’re prioritising our contracted customers and have temporarily suspended sales for a very small number – fewer than 10 – of our ad-hoc customers.

‘We’re working hard with our partners to resolve this as soon as we can. This doesn’t affect any of our other services, for example to food banks, charities, local authorities and wholesalers, as well as contracted wholesale customers.’

It comes as The British Meat Processors Association last week warned it was ‘heading for a brick wall’ on labour shortages.

The group said production capacity was down 10 per cent because a lack of skilled workers in the UK.  

Chief executive, Nick Allen, said: ‘Our problems started with Brexit and Covid has made them worse. 

‘And the pubs and hotels opening up has increased the demand on labour. The whole food industry is really struggling at the moment.’

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) denied shelves could be left empty but admitted a degree of ‘minor disruption’ to some supply chains.

A statement sent to The Mirror said: ‘Supermarkets are working closely with their suppliers to ensure that consumers still have access to the same great selection of goods.’  

Morrisons, which has more than 500 of its own stores across the UK, has closed wholesale accounts for independent retailers it supplies to in order to prioritise its own customers

Morrisons, which has more than 500 of its own stores across the UK, has closed wholesale accounts for independent retailers it supplies to in order to prioritise its own customers

It comes after a driver shortage triggered calls for the Army to be on standby to deliver food to convenience stores, pubs, restaurants and care homes.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) says the situation has reached crisis point, leading to bare shelves and a risk of empty plates. 

Local convenience stores are now resorting to putting up notices warning customers of shortages due to the lack of delivery drivers.

Pub and restaurant chains are also not getting the fresh produce deliveries they expect.

Supplies of beer, milk and other chilled products are being hit, while there are fears the situation might affect tanker deliveries of fuel to petrol stations.

James Bielby, chief executive of the FWD, said there is an estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers.

The Road Haulage Association said the crisis has been triggered by a combination of Brexit, which has led to a cut in European truckers, and Covid, which has seen no new HGV drivers trained for a year.

Mr Bielby said: ‘The situation has reached crisis point and it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases. The Government needs to act very quickly.

Nationwide Produce PLC MD Tim O'Malley, pictured, has warned that a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK could result in empty supermarket selves

Nationwide Produce PLC MD Tim O’Malley, pictured, has warned that a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK could result in empty supermarket selves 

‘We are concerned enough to suggest that the Government considers having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.’  

It comes after Tim O’Malley, managing director of Nationwide Produce PLC – one of the biggest companies supplying fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and restaurants across Britain – warned fruit and vegetables are rotting in cold stores because of a major shortage of HGV drivers.

He has warned that perfectly good food is being left to rot as there are not enough truck drivers to transport produce across the country.

In an article in the Fresh Produce Journal, Mr O’Malley warned that his industry has been hit by Brexit, Covid-19 and changes to the tax system of HGV agency drivers.

Mr O’Malley wrote: ‘The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in cold stores, waiting for wheels to go under it. 

‘Supermarket shelves and restaurant plates are going empty, and this is now a crisis of national importance.’


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