Supermarket giant Tesco has told the government that if immediate action is not taken, there will be panic over a shortage of lorry drivers before Christmas.
At a meeting organized by the Cabinet Office last Thursday, Tesco bosses revealed it was short of 800 lorry drivers and called on ministers to make it easier to bring in workers from overseas.
Tesco also warned that panic buying could be “far worse” than at the start of the pandemic, according to the retail magazine Grocery.
The concerns were raised during the first meeting of the government’s new food and beverage supply chain task force. Several retailers have been selected by the government to help find solutions to the labor crisis in the region.
The retail giant told Defra executives it was struggling to fill lorry driver vacancies despite a pay raise, and said its logistics partner Eddie Stobart was also dealing with a similar shortage of transportation workers.
The supermarket’s UK distribution and fulfillment director Andrew Woolfenden said labor shortages were industry-wide and described efforts by companies to recruit from a limited pool of drivers as “like a deckchair moving around”. ITV informed of.
Mr Woolfenden said: “Our concern is that pictures of empty shelves will be ten times worse by Christmas and then we will panic.”
The Road Haulage Association and Logistics UK estimate that 75,000 to 100,000 new recruits are needed.
Logistics UK has asked the government to provide 10,000 temporary visas to bridge the worker gap until more drivers can be trained in the UK. However, politicians are still resisting calls for this short-term reform.
Tesco’s intervention comes as the president of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, also warned of a return to panic-buying.
Ms Batters wrote in a letter to Boris Johnson, and signed by 12 food and beverage trade bodies, saying: “The entire UK food supply chain from agricultural supplies to retail outlets to open an emergency ‘Covid Recovery Visa’ Unite in calling for new recruitment opportunities as urgency.
“Without it, more shelves will be empty and consumers will panic-buy and try and go through the winter.
“If it cannot address the immediate crisis the supply chain will be severely damaged beyond recovery. We should have an immediate commitment from you to enable the industry to recruit from outside the UK over the next 12 months to protect us from the cold and help us save Christmas.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We have good availability, with deliveries taking place at our stores and distribution centers across the UK every day. Although the lack of HGV drivers in the industry has led to some delivery challenges, we are looking to address and address these. Working hard to plan for the coming months, so that customers can get everything they need.
A Defra spokesman said: “The UK has a highly resilient food supply chain, which has coped well to respond to unprecedented challenges.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /