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Festive shortages as supply lines struggle – items running low

Supermarket shelves in some stores have been looking a little bare in recent weeks because of a combination of import issues and a lack of HGV drivers.

Delays have hit shipping around the globe and the UK is short of 100,000 truck drivers and around 10,000 warehouse operatives.

Combined with the import delays, it means shoppers are facing difficulties getting what they need in the run-up to Christmas, reports BristolLive.

The problem came to a head this week when petrol pumps ran dry – thanks to panic buying sparked by the lack of HGV drivers available to deliver fuel. But the shortage goes much further than the petrol forecourt.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the haulage industry needs to stop relying on cheap foreign drivers. He said he wanted to end the UK’s reliance on low-wage foreign workers and for it to become “a well-paid, well-skilled, highly productive economy”.

READ MORE: Stores beg shoppers not to panic buy goods

His comments came after the Government announced it was extending 5,000 temporary visas being offered to foreign lorry drivers amid warnings of shortages on the shelves in the run-up to Christmas.

Here is a list of what is running short – and why.


Shops have been running out of meat for weeks thanks to the supply chain problems, and the situation got worse when energy prices soared.

Two plants that produce carbon dioxide – vital in meat production – were forced to shut down.

Pigs in blankets may be scarce at Christmas dinner this year

At the same time, the country is short of 15,000 abattoir workers, meaning there is such a backlog that animals may have to be killed and destroyed on their farms.

Industry leaders have warned there could be a shortage of meat in the run-up to Christmas – including turkeys.

Turkey farmers had already cut their production this year because they knew they would not be able to get the workers. Supply is down at least 20 per cent. Poultry may need to be imported from Europe to make sure Christmas dinner is not cancelled, but Tory chairman Oliver Dowden said issues with turkey production were being addressed.

“We will make sure that people have their turkeys for Christmas,” he said.

Beer and soft drinks

The closure of factories that make carbon dioxide in the UK thanks to soaring energy prices has hit the production of carbonated drinks.

AG Barr – producers of soft drinks such as IronBru – also said this week said it is monitoring the HGV crisis closely to try to ensure it can maintain supply to shops.

Empty shelves and signs on the soft drinks aisle of a Sainsbury's store in Blackheath, Rowley Regis in the West Midlands.
Empty shelves and signs on the soft drinks aisle

Fruit and veg

As with meat, producers deliberately cut back how much they grew this year because they knew there would be a shortage of workers during harvest and production thanks to Brexit and the pandemic.

Plans to bring in foreign imports have failed because of the HGV crisis.


Poor wheat harvests in Europe and North America have hit the supply of pasta, while supermarkets have cut back deliveries, according to The Times, because pasta is bulky and takes up room in the under-pressure HGVs.

Bottled water

As with pasta, supermarkets have been cutting back on deliveries because water takes up a lot of room in HGVs.

Computers and games consoles

The factories which make computer chips in the Far East shut down during the pandemic – which is why it is so hard to hold of the latest models of PlayStation and Xbox as well as other computers, tech equipment and gaming machines.


The pandemic disrupted production in the Far East and closer to home while also seeing people with more time and desire to get out and exercise.

The Times says a third of bike models at Halfords are out of stock.

Shipping delays, including the closure of the Suez Canal, have also hit production and supply.


The supply chain globally has been hit by a shortage of labour, HGV drivers and shipping containers.

Manufacturers have been struggling to get materials, and to deliver supplies of finished goods to the UK.


A sofa, and similar furniture, would normally take eight weeks to arrive in your home from point of order.

Thanks to shipping and labour delays globally caused by the pandemic that is now closer to 16 weeks.

There is a shortage of shipping containers to carry the furniture to the UK, thanks to a rise in demand in the USA, the Suez closure and port closures in Asia.

Check out the latest on days out, nights out, shopping and more with our Daily What’s On Email updates.

However, there is one glimmer of hope amid the gloom. Retail experts are urging shoppers to support local independent breweries, butchers and other food producers during the crisis because these outlets are relatively unaffected by shortages and rely less on the HGV industry for distribution.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are closely monitoring labour supply and working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points. Similar challenges are being faced by other countries around the world.

“We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad. Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

“The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options wage increases and investment.”

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