Crisis: Supermarkets weeks away from gap in shelves amid staff shortage

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Food shortages could worsen in the coming weeks and months due to staff shortages in various sectors within the food industry. There is a lack of labourers and lorry drivers due to a number of factors.

A shortage of lorry drivers in Britain has reached “crisis point”, industry bosses have warned.

The lack of workers has already caused supermarkets to miss deliveries on products.

If this issue persists, supermarkets could be “weeks away” from empty shelves.

Industry leaders have written to Boris Johnson to inform him that there is now a shortage of over 100,000 drivers.

They have also asked the prime minister to take action.

The letter, written by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and signed by 20 industry bosses, states: “Prior to the pandemic, we estimated a shortage in excess of 60,000.

“Several factors have exacerbated the shortage which is now at crisis point (over 100,000) and critical supply chains are failing.”

The industry bosses wrote that supermarkets are already experiencing shortages of certain products and the problem will “only get worse” if not “urgently” addressed.

The RHA is asking the Government to bring back EU workers as the issue, it claims, cannot be solved by training British workers.

Many EU citizens have gone back to the European mainland due to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

This, as well as other factors, have contributed to the shortage in lorry drivers and other workers within the food industry.

The RHA said in the letter: “We ask for the introduction of a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers and for this occupation to be added to the Home Office Shortage Occupation List.”

If the Government does not act, Britons could see more empty shelves in supermarkets and more food products made unavailable.

Richard Burnett, CEO of the RHA, told ITV News this week: “We are weeks away from gaps on the shelves, it is as serious as that.

“The government needs to treat this as an absolute priority.”

The shortage of drivers and other workers has become more difficult to control due to the reopening of the economy and the start of the summer holidays.

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.

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.”

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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