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Monday, September 13, 2021

Are food shortages permanent?

Anybody doing the weekly shop has noticed that certain items are no longer available on supermarket shelves, and according to some experts that trend is to continue.

The Independent reports that he head of the Food and Drink Federation, Ian Wright, has said staff shortages – triggered by a combination of Covid and Brexit – have killed off the “just-in-time” delivery model. He claims food shortages in supermarkets and restaurants are “permanent” and shoppers will never again enjoy a full choice of items:

But Downing Street rejected the claim of a broken system and, in a potential hostage to fortune, predicted the shortages will be over by the festive season.

Pressed on whether the shortages will ease to allow people to enjoy a “normal Christmas”, Boris Johnson’s spokesman told The Independent: “I believe so, yes.”

The clash came as the government rebuffs calls to loosen post-Brexit immigration rules – to attract more HGV drivers, for example – insisting businesses must stop relying on EU workers.

But the hit to trade from leaving the EU and the pandemic was laid bare by new figures revealing trade with the bloc plunged in July, with exports £1.7bn lower than in July 2018 and imports down £3bn.

Worryingly, the UK is on course to fall out of Germany’s top 10 trading partners for the first time in 70 years, data issued by the German government revealed.

“The UK’s loss of importance in foreign trade is the logical consequence of Brexit. These are probably lasting effects,” said Gabriel Felbermayr, the president of the Institute for the World Economy.

In the UK, McDonald’s, Greggs, the Co-op and Ikea are just some of the big retailers that have struggled to supply products to their customers in recent weeks.

The CBI business group has warned the labour shortages behind the gaps on shelves and restaurant menus could last up to two years, without urgent government action.

The Food and Drink Federation stepped up that pressure when Mr Wright told a think tank event: “It’s going to get worse, and it’s not going to get better after getting worse any time soon.”

He then added: “The result of the labour shortages is that the just-in-time system that has sustained supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants – so the food has arrived on shelf or in the kitchen, just when you need it – is no longer working.”

The Prime Minister has put his neck on the line by predicting this will only be a temporary glitch, we will see if he is proved right or not. Only three and a half months to Christmas.
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