IT is the most wonderful time of the year. well almost.
After quite a rough twelve months, we’ve reached the point in the calendar when stores begin to be decorated with holly branches and shelves stocked with everything from mulled wine to turkey.
Thankfully, it promises a massive improvement over the canceled Christmas of the year 2020 – but things are far from normal right now.
Without wishing to be “bah, humbug,” suppliers of festive essentials warn that stocks may not quite be at the level we’re used to.
As the prime minister appoints a supply chain tsar to advise on impending shortages, we’ve taken a look at some festive treats that may be in short supply…
The bird sitting in the middle of millions of Christmas dinner tables will be seen in few homes this year. The labor shortage forced poultry farmers to cut production by about a fifth – between 500,000 and 750,000 birds.
Industry says non-UK workers left the country after Brexit and the government visa scheme for 5,500 poultry production line workers came too late. Turkey, it turns out, cannot be grown overnight.
pigs in bed
Labor shortage is also causing havoc for pig farmers, who have started killing and burning the animals due to lack of adequate workers in the slaughterhouses.
A backlog is building up and the industry has warned that up to 120,000 pigs may have to be killed. Meat processors say they need 15,000 additional workers but the government is offering only 1,000 temporary visas for butchers. Meat industry trade bodies say it is too late to prevent supply disruptions.
The likely result is more meat imports than elsewhere, which British farmers say are generally of lower quality and produced to lower welfare standards.
Lamb and Beef
There’s some more positive news on lamb and beef, should you be looking for an alternative to turkey. Britain has an abundant supply and is not threatened in the same way as pork is.
Unlike pigs, cows and sheep are mostly raised outdoors and grass-fed. If there is a backlog at the slaughterhouse, farmers can leave their animals to graze longer than the pigs kept in the shed and have a shorter window of time where they must be killed. Also, the pigs are not considered useful for making chops and bacon rashers.
The boom in online shopping and home delivery has driven demand for packaging including cardboard, adding to the pressure on supply. The cost of shipping all kinds of goods around the world has also risen sharply, helping to drive up the price of paper pulp further.
We don’t have the possibility of running out of wrapping paper, but it could be more expensive. Now might be the time to raid the cupboards for rolls of paper kept in previous years.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the lovely evergreen fir trees that light up our living rooms.
Alas, retailers are saying that the high cost of shipping, pallets, fertilizer and labor shortage have affected supplies. Brexit red tape has also been a factor.
Mark Rofe, owner of Christmastrees.co.uk, says retail prices will be 5 per cent to 10 per cent higher this year. He continued: “It is going to be more challenging to get hold of a real Christmas tree this festive season. However, if you are able to get one, you can expect to pay more than in previous years.”
A key ingredient to any modern festive experience is a heavy supply of chocolate, preferably while remaining sedentary for a few days.
Not in 2021. Nestlé, the world’s largest food producer and maker of Quality Street, says it is not affecting everyone with global supply chain problems. Rose, anyone?
Beer and fizzy soft drinks
For some, the idea of a teetotal Christmas with extended family members may seem unattainable. So the news in September of a reduction in the CO2 used to fizz in beer and soft drinks may have caused alarm.
Fear not, beer and fizzy drinks will still be available, but supplies are under a little more pressure than usual. The government has handed over millions of pounds to an American fertilizer company that supplies 60 percent of the UK’s CO2 and allows it to set prices. Christmas has come early for some!
Like Grinch the Stole Christmas, owners of toy companies are ready to warn that kids may miss out on some of their favorite presents.
Toy sales boomed during the pandemic as parents sought to keep children stuck at home entertained. Manufacturers are facing many problems including shortage of raw material and costly shipping.
Barbie maker Mattel has said it has been affected, while UK retailer Entertainer has also warned about stock levels.
At the top of many lists for Santa will be Sony’s perennially popular game console, the PlayStation 5 that has been hard to find all year.
Gamers are watching closely for the PS5’s “drops” as stock trickles in at various retailers. Sony is grappling with a global shortage of microchips that are found in everything from cars and consoles to stairlifts and defibrillators.
Some factories producing the chips closed last year and have struggled to keep up with rising demand this year. The pandemic has caused a shift in the way we live our lives online, which means we have bought more electronic devices.
The PS5’s big shortfall is likely to get worse over Christmas, so follow our live updates to get stock.
Gas prices have hit record highs, thanks to all the factors coming together. A cold winter reduced supply and a mild summer meant less electricity was generated from renewables such as wind and solar.
High demand for liquefied natural gas in Asia has left Europe competing for short supplies, while Russia has limited the amount it can send through its pipelines.
What does all this mean for the average family? Bills are rising fast. The energy price cap rose 12 per cent to £1,277 from the beginning of October, and experts predict it could rise to a further £400 in April. Cheap deals have disappeared so heating homes is going to be expensive this winter.
Petrol station courtyards have dried up over the past few weeks and many are empty, especially in the south east of England. Shortage of tanker drivers initially caused shortage at some places and panic buying started.
Supply is expected to normalize in the coming days, but further problems at the pumps cannot be ruled out if people decide to re-stock for the Christmas period.
Hospitals this year are even more stretched than usual to cope with the heat crisis, which has made the winter months sick.
Many trusts have declared “black alert” due to shortage of beds, increasing number of COVID patients, as well as increasing number of people in A&E.
A lack of intensive care beds has meant routine surgeries, including for some cancer patients, have been canceled across England.
All of which puts PlayStation, Quality Street, and the lack of turkey in perspective.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /