Sun. Sep 25th, 2022


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Iceland supermarket boss warns driver shortage could ‘cancel’ Christmas dinners

4 min read

McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes and bottled drinks

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Managing director Richard Walker said a shortage of lorry drivers could spark daily shortages of food and drink products. Iceland is currently operating with a shortfall of at least 100 full-time drivers, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Mr Walker today warned: “The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute and I’d hate this one to be problematic as well.”.

The retail boss said to his firm that the driver shortage is already “impacting the food supply chain on a daily basis”.

He added: “We’ve had deliveries cancelled for the first time since the pandemic began, about 40-40 deliveries a day.

“Things like bread, fast-moving lines, are being cancelled in about 100 stores a day.

“Soft drinks are 50 percent less in terms of volume, so it is having an effect at the shelf.”

Mr Walker said his firm’s stores were selling out of bread and “struggling to replenish as quickly as we need”.

He said the issue would soon start to affect the Christmas period, warning: “Of course, we’ve got Christmas round the corner in retail.

“We start to stock build really 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.”

The Iceland boss blamed the supply chaos on Brexit.

Asked whether the shortages were a consequence of the UK’s EU divorce, he said: “Yes I think so.

“But it is a self-inflicted wound. I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitable consequence of Brexit.”

He added: “This is caused by the Government’s failure to appreciate the importance of HGV drivers and the work they do for us.”

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Mr Walker called on ministers to add lorry drivers to the list of essential and skilled workers.

“These HGV drivers have kept the show on the road for 18 months during the pandemic and it is criminal that we are not viewing them as skilled workers,” he said.

Mr Walker’s warning comes after a number of well-publicised shortages in the UK’s food and drink sector.

Recently peri peri chicken chain Nando’s and fried chicken giant KFC have been hit by problems.

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McDonald’s is also experiencing supply issues, running out of milkshakes and reporting its 1,250 outlets in England, Scotland and Wales are without bottled drinks.

The British Meat Processors Association has warned that Brexit-induced labour shortages could lead to a pigs in blankets crisis this Christmas.

It said production for the festive favourite could be cut by up to a third.

BMPA chief executive Nick Allen said this was down to staffing challenges and a shortage of lorry drivers.

He said: “Some of the pig processors are having to cut down on how many pigs they are processing a week so that’s starting to have an impact back on the farm.

“We are cutting back and prioritising lines and cutting out on things, so there just won’t be the totals of Christmas favourites like we are used to.”

Gammon, another Christmas dinner staple, could also be hit by supply chaos.

The Government finds itself under increasing pressure to address the shortage of lorry drivers.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The UK faces a shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers and it is consumers who will ultimately suffer for this.

“So far, disruption has been minimal thanks to the incredible work by retailers and their suppliers.

“Retailers are increasing pay rates, offering bonuses and introducing new driver training schemes, as well as directly supporting their suppliers in the movement of goods, but Government will need to play its part.

“We are calling on the Government to rapidly increase the number of HGV driving tests taking place, provide temporary visas for EU drivers, and to make changes on how HGV driver training can be funded.”

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