Now Hardys boss predicts Christmas WINE shortage thanks to HGV driver shortage crisis
- Accolade chief exec Robert Foye says wine prices may increase in Christmas
- Shortage of lorry drivers means retailers could struggle to meet demand
- Company is working with transport partners but ‘ultimately costs will go up’
Britain is likely to face a wine shortage with empty shelves and higher prices over Christmas, the chief executive of the UK’s biggest wine company has warned.
The shortage of lorry drivers means retailers could struggle to meet demand during the festive season, in the latest development in the supply chain crisis.
Supermarkets and suppliers are struggling following an exodus of drivers from EU countries, who returned to the continent during the pandemic and remained there.
Now Accolade — which owns Hardys, Echo Falls and Kumala — boss Robert Foye says wine stock levels in shops at the end of the year could depend on the transport industry.
Britain is likely to face a wine shortage with empty shelves and higher prices over Christmas, the chief executive of the UK’s biggest wine company has warned
Accolade — which owns Hardys, Echo Falls and Kumala — boss Robert Foye (pictured) says wine stock levels in shops at the end of the year could depend on the lorry driver crisis being resolved
The supply of popular Christmas products is likely to be hit by domestic labour shortages and issues with global shipping
A lack of lorry drivers and food processors is being partly blamed on the new Brexit visa regime introduced on January 1, which penalises lower-skilled migrants in favour of those with qualifications.
But global factors are relevant too, bosses say, including Chinese port closures and a lack of shipping containers. US Vice President Kamala Harris urged Americans to buy Christmas toys early due to a shortage there.
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told MailOnline Britain has so far been unable to shake its dependency on EU workers who have been leaving due to the pandemic.
The supply of new workers is also being held back by stricter visa rules introduced on January 1.
The most common complaint among UK retailers and food producers is the shortage of lorry drivers, which the Road Haulage Association currently puts at 100,000.
Thousands of prospective drivers are waiting for their HGV tests due to a backlog caused by lockdown, while many existing ones have left the UK after Brexit or to be back with their families during Covid.
Importers are also suffering a financial hit, with dramatically rising transport costs caused by a global lack of shipping containers and a slowdown in freight movements resulting from port closures.
Chinese authorities recently shut Ningbo-Zhoushan port, which is one of the world’s largest container terminals, due to a Covid outbreak.
Gary Grant, founder and executive chairman of toy chain the Entertainer, said the cost of shipping a container from Asia had increased from $1,700 to more than $13,000 (£8,000) over the past year.
Mr Foye told the BBC: ‘These shortages, if they continue, could definitely impact Christmas.
‘We are trying to get ahead of it, but it does depend on the situation for the entire transport and trucking industry in the UK.
‘The only way we can mitigate is if we work very closely with our trucking and transport suppliers and our customers.
‘We have done some of that and are managing well so far, but ultimately costs will go up.’
It comes after it was revealed shop prices in Britain rose last month as the national shortage of lorry drivers.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: ‘There was a slight rise in prices on the previous month. There are some modest indications that rising costs are starting to filter through into product prices.
‘Food retailers are fighting to keep their prices down as far as possible. But mounting pressures — from rising commodity and shipping costs as well as Brexit-related red tape, mean this will not be sustainable for much longer, and food price rises are likely in the coming months.
The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium reveal a 0.4 per cent month-on-month rise in August driven by a 0.6 per cent rise in non-food prices — in particular, a sharp increase in the cost of electrical goods caused by shortages of microchips and shipping problems.
While shop prices remain below those last year — down 0.8 per cent in August compared with the same month the previous year — that marked a slowdown in deflation from the 1.2 per cent year-on-year fall recorded in July.
‘Disruption has been limited so far, but in the run-up to Christmas the situation could get worse, and customers may see reduced choice and increased prices for their favourite products and presents.
‘The Government must act swiftly and rapidly increase the number of HGV driving tests taking place, provide temporary visas for EU drivers, and make changes on how HGV driver training can be funded. Without Government action, it will be the British consumers who will pay the price.’
Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at research group NielsenIQ, which helped provide the data, said: ‘The good news for shoppers is that shop price inflation remains below consumer price inflation and any moderate increases in prices are being driven by wider economic conditions and seasonal supply changes.
‘With shoppers now returning from their summer holidays, many will be reviewing their household budgets.
‘So the next few months will be an important time for retailers to keep prices stable by absorbing as much of any increase in their supply chain costs as possible.’
The Government is considering bringing forward a review of its Shortage of Occupation list to tackle the issue of the HGV driver shortage
Retail bosses in Britain have warned that the industry faces a shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers as the impact of Covid strangles supply chains, threatening a shortage of popular gifts and staple foods.
Experts claimed the shortage is due to a combination of factors including EU employees returning home after Brexit and Covid restrictions causing the cancellation of 40,000 HGV tests. They also cited poor wages and the closure of a tax loophole for some drivers.
The crisis is also hitting British tourism, as hoteliers and bar owners try to manage a surge in holidaymakers as people opt for vacations at home than abroad, and staff shortages caused by a rising number of Covid infections and a recruitment slump post-Brexit.
Even schools are being warned to stock up on food for hot meals, with Federation of Wholesale Distributors communications chief David Visick warning September is going to be ‘incredibly challenging for food distributors who are struggling to find enough delivery drivers’.
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