‘Full blown crisis’: Food shortages now ‘inevitable’ in UK – including on popular items

Sainsbury’s: Expert discusses food shortage concerns

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The past few months and weeks have seen shortages across a range of various foods, from Cadbury 99 flakes to Italian tinned tomatoes. The food supply industry has warned that more food shortages are now “inevitable” due to labour shortages.

The supply chain is creaking under pressure due to worker shortages in a number of sectors.

There is a lack of drivers, as well as those working in harvesting, manufacturing, and packaging.

Trade bodies, logistics firms, and supplies have warned that several factors are contributing to supermarkets’ ability to keep shelves fully stocked.

These factors are becoming more difficult to control due to the reopening of the economy and the upcoming start to the school summer holidays.

Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation, said: “The real crisis for food supplies starts now.

“This time definitely feels different.

“Everywhere you look in a supply chain there are problems.

“Food already isn’t being replenished into supermarkets quick enough and it’s not just because of logistics but a lack of production.”

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Worker shortages are being fuelled by European employees returning home due to Brexit and the pandemic, new visas needed for unskilled workers, and the slowing down of the furlough scheme.

The strain on the supply chain is expected to intensify in the coming weeks as workers start to use up to five weeks of their accumulated holiday days while on furlough.

Even though most companies see a diminished workforce during the summer months, this is usually balanced out by an equivalent drop in demand as Britons head abroad.

But with most people staying at home this year, the demand on supply chains is set to be constant.

Mark Crawford, a director at fruit supplied Blue Skies, said the shortage in labourers meant that businesses wee struggling to find affordable workers.

He claimed this had led to “one of the hardest weeks I have ever had in the industry”.

Mr Crawford added: “Our food industry is in a full blown crisis. We need the workers to help produce, pack and distribute.”

Meat suppliers are also finding it difficult to fulfil orders.

The British Meat Processors Association said this week that some processors have lost 10 percent of their employees and were now about two weeks away from reducing deliveries to food retailers.

Shaun Leonard, Head of Temperature Controlled Transport at trucking company Turners Soham, said some deliveries to supermarkets have already been cut.

He claimed that “the worst is definitely yet to come”.

“We see it in packhouses [for fruit and vegetables] where you need agency staff to double or triple your workforce depending on the day,” Mr Leonard said.

“We see food manufacturers struggling to find production staff to work the lines.

“Suppliers are having to rationalise the number of product lines as a result.”

However, Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium said retailers are aware of the lack of workers and trying their best to fix the problem.

Mr Opie explained retailers were working with suppliers to “ensure that consumers still have the same great selection of fresh produce”.

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