U.K. Faces ‘Permanent’ Gaps in Food Supply, Industry Chief Warns
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. faces “permanent shortages” of popular food and drink items due to a labor shortfall, according to an industry chief.
A lack of workers in the food supply chain, in part caused by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, means Britons can no longer expect to find whatever they want on supermarket shelves or in restaurants, said Ian Wright, head of the Food and Drink Federation.
“That’s over, and I don’t think it’s coming back,” he said on a webinar hosted by the Institute for Government think-tank on Friday. “It’s going to get worse, and it’s not going to get better after getting worse any time soon.”
Gaps in the U.K. labor market have roiled supply chains, with shortages of HGV drivers, slaughtermen and engineers disrupting the flow of goods. The food industry is short of about 500,000 employees, or one-eighth of the required workforce, and part of this is due to EU nationals returning home after Brexit, Wright said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office rejected the claims, saying that shortages of some food products weren’t going to be permanent.
“We’ve got highly resilient food supply chains which have coped extremely well in the face of challenges,” the prime minister’s spokesman Jamie Davies told reporters. “We believe that will remain the case.”
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