The UK's Food Supply Chain Issues Come Christmas 2021:

Which foods is the UK running low on and why?

It is fair to say that the UK is not alone in its supply chain issues, the shortage of HGV drivers and production workers in fields, farms and factories are destabilising the normality of the food harvest from our fields and factories.

2 minute read

Posted: 21/10/2021

UK Food Council

Media & News Desk
020 -3393 - 5337


Arno de Bruin

London, October 21 2021,

So, here's a snapshot of the worst shortages in the UK and the reasons for them and what the industry and UK Government need to do about it - because this problem is not going away any day soon.


The poultry trade is also hard hit by the labour shortage, with the British Poultry Council estimating there are nearly 7,000 vacancies across the sector. Farmers are warning of a Christmas turkey shortage because visa changes to allow labour recruitment from abroad have come too late.

And the "perfect storm" of labour shortages, shipping costs and post-Brexit labour regulations could also lead to a scarcity of Christmas trees this year.


The UK's shortage of lorry drivers means that supermarkets are getting fewer deliveries of everything than they used to, so when they sell out of a particular product, it now takes longer for them to fill that gap on the shelf.

That includes chocolate and other confectionery.

Large quantities of sweets are an essential indulgence for many families at Christmas, but some of the most popular selections might be absent from store shelves in the run-up to the festive season.

Nestle, which makes Quality Street as well as Aero and KitKat, has said it is experiencing some supply chain problems - again caused by the UK's shortage of HGV lorry drivers and global shipping issues. The Swiss-based multinational is the world's largest producer of dairy products, but it's not the only firm in its sector that has been hit. Dairy giant Arla, who supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, has been forced to cut back on its deliveries by the lack of lorry drivers.

The firm has been experiencing driver shortages since early April and there is no end in sight to the problem. It normally delivers to 2,400 stores a day, but now cannot deliver to all of them every day.

However, it says it is working closely with customers to make sure supplies get through. At the same time, at least one dairy farmer has said he was told to dump his milk after the lorry driver shortage meant it could not be collected.


Among other grocery items sometimes missing from supermarket shelves right now, shoppers are finding they can't always buy their favourite cuts of meat. Since the UK's departure from the European Union, the food sector, like many others, has been struggling to cope with a loss of workers after many eastern Europeans went home.

Pig farmers have been particularly badly affected - they say they are worried they will not be able to sell their animals this year, because of staff shortages in abattoirs. Farmers have said they have had to slaughter-ready pigs waiting to be sent to butchers. However, a lack of trained staff to turn the pigs into food for customers means some risk being killed and sent to landfill instead.

And not only is there a problem with pork supply, but the production of pigs in blankets - cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon - is suffering from a lack of seasonal EU labour.

UK Food Council is asking for..

The UK Food Council claims that the industry has traditionally found it difficult to attract British workers into many of the vacancies. The labour shortages were "perennial", but since Brexit and following the pandemic, the problem has become much worse. "Industries are now competing with each other for a dwindling pool of workers and the current labour crisis has seen workers across the whole food chain being enticed away by other industries that can afford to hike wages 20% or 30%. "To restore some balance in the labour market, every employer, including the public sector, may have to follow suit, but it will mean consumer price inflation."

The challenge for the industry and UK Government is three fold, immediately it has to stem the fall out of people being seduced away from the industry into other less strategically important markets and industries, secondly the UK Government in particular has to raise the platform on which it views such sectors as farming and support the innovation that is taking place in this sector - in short it needs more investment, a food science programme of substance which is sustainable and a cabinet ministerial post that has more clout and then (with the industry alongside government) let’s all look at the medium to long term position - which unless measures are put in place now could be devastating for the UK in the not to distant future.

So the UK Food Council calling upon the UK Government and the major food producers to hold a summit in early 2022 to table the issues and focus on the solutions which the industry can all contribute to - it is not all about funding - it is also about mind set, training, capability and a ‘can do’ attitude.

News / UK Food Council – October 21st, 2021
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