‘It going to get worse’: UK supermarket shortages will be permanent, trade body says – The Independent

Food shortages in supermarkets are likely to last forever, a leading industry figure has warned.

The boss of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has said that the labour shortages crippling the industry are not going to get any better.

Speaking at an event organised by the Institute for Government think tank, Ian Wright, chief executive of the FDF, said: “It’s going to get worse, and it’s not going to get better after getting worse any time soon.

“The result of the labour shortages is that the just-in-time system that has sustained supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants – so the food has arrived on shelf or in the kitchen, just when you need it – is no longer working.”

Warning about the permanent effects of the crisis, Mr Wright continued: “And I don’t think it will work again, I think we will see we are now in for permanent shortages.”

A shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers and farm workers, compounded by Brexit and the Covid pandemic, has caused shortages of food and other items at many high-street chains.

McDonald’s, Greggs, the Co-op and Ikea are just some of the big retailers that are struggling to supply products to their customers.

The UK food and drink industry is short of around half a million workers, Mr Wright told the IfG, meaning it is missing around an eight of its workforce.

However Mr Wright said that workforce problems “don’t mean that you’re going to run out of food”.

He referenced problems in the East of England last week, where people ran out of bottled water supplies because companies made the decision to prioritise delivering products that would give them higher margins.

“That’s a first world problem. Nobody’s going to be completely bereft if they can’t get bottled water,” Mr Wright said.

“But what is changing now is that the UK shopper and consumer could have previously expected just about every product they want to be on a shelf or in the restaurant all the time.

“That’s over, and I don’t think it’s coming back.”

The government is expected to introduce fast-track tests for lorry drivers to help get a grip on delivery disruption ahead of the peak Christmas season.

The BBC reported that the plans for streamlining the testing process would include combining the Class C test for rigid lorries and the Class E test for larger articulated lorries into one test.

Present rules state that drivers must wait a minimum of two weeks between take the two tests.

The shortage of lorry drivers is forcing some UK farmers to throw away milk, in the latest tale of supply chain disruption.

In a report published last week, one dairy logistics firm told the National Farmers Union that they had problems finding staff for the first time in 27 years.

They said the situation had become particularly “grave in the last two months, to the extent that only a small staff shortage will halt the flow of raw milk to dairies and put the food chain at risk.”

They added: “It is reasonable to predict that in the next few weeks and months there could be a collapse of parts of the supply chain with a consequential disruption to the supply of milk on retailer shelves.”

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