Christmas ‘could be cancelled’ as UK food shortage crisis hits supermarkets

THE boss of Iceland has warned that shortages could hit Christmas food supplies.

Richard Walker, the supermarket’s chief executive, has said that a lack of lorry drivers is threatening supplies.

Empty shelves have become a familiar sight in shops[/caption]

Gaps on supermarket shelves have been spotted across the country due to a combination of factors, including lorry driver shortages and Covid.

Supplier issues have also led to shortages at fast food chains like McDonald’s, Nandos and KFC, with some items off menus and branches closed.

Greggs is the latest to say that it’s short on food faves and Costa Coffee has reduced its menu due to the supply chain chaos.

McDonald’s yesterday warned that there was a nation-wide shortage of milkshakes at its more than 1,000 restaurants.

The Sun first revealed last week that Nandos was forced to close nearly 50 branches after running out of chicken.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme Mr Walker said: “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.”

“We start to stock-build 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.”

He said the shortage of drivers is impacting the supermarket daily and creating shortages on shelves.

Poultry farmers warned they cannot get enough staff and will produce 20% fewer turkeys this Christmas.

Vegetable farmers face problems too. They are short of workers to pick produce and also face higher costs to pack cabbage, broccoli and sprouts plus longer delivery times due to a lack of drivers. 

To attract workers, firms are paying more – meaning bigger firms can outbid smaller ones.

Some retailers, including Tesco, Asda and Marks & Spencer, are offering £1,000 bonuses to new HGV drivers.

The boss of the Co-op has also warned that food shortages are the worst he has ever seen.

Steve Murrells, the Co-op’s chief executive told The Times that that supermarkets are reducing their ranges because of the issues.

He said: “Rather than bare shelves, we’re seeing supermarkets rationalising their lines so they can process more. Rather than three different qualities of strawberry, there is just one grade.”

Bottled water and fresh fruit and veg are among the products that have been missing from shelves.

A number of problems through the food supply chain have combined to create what’s been described as a “perfect storm”.

Mr Murells told The Times the crisis was “the merging of Brexit and issues
caused by Covid”.

A shortage of lorry drivers and fruit and veg pickers has threatened supplies, while staff shortages have been created at factories after they were “pinged” by the NHS Covid app.

Last month Mr Walker urged shoppers not to panic buy and the supermarket was forced to close some of its stores due to a lack of staff and BP had to close several petrol stations.

There is a major shortage of lorry drivers which is affecting deliveries of food.

Figures from the Road Haulage Association reveal the UK needs another 100,000 truckers to continue to deliver goods to stores.

Fewer new drivers started working because Covid restrictions have limited training for those joining the industry.

Brexit and the pandemic combined have also resulted in fewer drivers from outside the UK working in Britain, the haulage industry says.

But the problem is unlikely to improve until next year, Logistics UK – which represents all the big supermarkets, stores and Amazon – warned The Sun.

About 14,000 European drivers left during the pandemic and are yet to return. It takes at least 6 months and up to 18 months to train a lorry driver.

Which chains are facing shortages?

A SHORTAGE of lorry drivers has wreaked havoc for fast food chains that have been running out of menu items. Here's a list of the firms that have been impacted so far...

  • KFC – The fried chicken chain warned earlier this month that some items were off the menu due to “weeks of disruption”
  • McDonald’s – McDonald’s is suffering from a nationwide shortage of milkshakes and bottled drinks
  • Nando’s – The chicken restaurant was forced to close 50 sites due to a shortage of staff at its suppliers’ factories. It reopened the branches at the end of last week after sending 70 members of staff to work in the factories
  • Greggs – High street bakery chain Greggs confirmed today that it is facing shortages. Photos show empty sandwich shelves at a store in Monument, Central London, while there have also been reports that it is running out of chicken bakes
  • Costa Coffee – The company is offering a reduced menu due to supplier issues. It said it hopes to resolve the problem as soon as possible

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