Food shortages ‘inevitable’ due to fall in workers, says industry

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The past few months and weeks have seen shortages across a range of various foods, from Cadbury 99 flakes to Italian tinned tomatoes. The food supply industry has warned that more food shortages are now “inevitable” due to labour shortages.

Worker shortages are being fuelled by European employees returning home due to Brexit and the pandemic, new visas needed for unskilled workers, and the slowing down of the furlough scheme.

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.

The British Meat Processors Association said this week that some processors have lost 10 percent of their employees and were now about two weeks away from reducing deliveries to food retailers.

Shaun Leonard, Head of Temperature Controlled Transport at trucking company Turners Soham, said some deliveries to supermarkets have already been cut.

He claimed that “the worst is definitely yet to come”.

“We see it in packhouses [for fruit and vegetables] where you need agency staff to double or triple your workforce depending on the day,” Mr Leonard said.

“We see food manufacturers struggling to find production staff to work the lines.

“Suppliers are having to rationalise the number of product lines as a result.”

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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