UK facing food shortages due to lack of labor, experts warn
The UK is facing a summer of food shortages because of a loss of 100,000 truck drivers to Covid-19 and Brexit, industry experts have warned.
In a letter to Boris Johnson they have called for an intervention to allow eastern European drivers back into the country on special visas, warning that there is a "crisis" in the supply chain, The Guardian reported.
Experts have said shortages of workers in warehouses and food processing centers are also having an impact on packing food for supermarket shelves.
They raised the issue at a meeting with the transport minister, Lady Vere, last week, saying that the labor vacancies were creating 48 metric tons (MT) of food waste each week.
As can be expected, the truck driver shortage is affecting fresh food with short shelf life the most.
James Mee, a blueberry farmer from Peterborough, warned that unless there was government intervention, food could rot in the fields with concerns being raised in the farming community for the late summer grain harvest in addition to soft fruits.
“We have been told by the hauler company we have used for years that they can only come and pick up our fruit once a week. But the fruit only has a five-day shelf life so we need picking up every day," he was reported as saying.
There is an enormous shortage of HGV drivers that is estimated between 85,000 and 100,000, Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association said.
“We are weeks away from gaps on the shelves, it is as serious as that,” he was reported as saying.
A recent RHA survey of 796 businesses that employ 45,000 drivers showed that all companies had vacancies.
There is a need to put HGV drivers on the shortage occupation list and to get a pool of labor quickly because training cannot happen quickly enough to plug the gap.
"We’ll have British HGV drivers going on summer holiday soon, which means no backfill at all. So the problem is only going to get worse,” Burnett was reported as saying.