The UK is undergoing one of the worst supply-chain crises of modern times, which is just beginning to hit home to consumers.
The culprit is labor shortages caused by a combination of Brexit, the withdrawal from the European Union that forced many foreign workers out of the country, and the newly resurgent pandemic.
The result is shortages of foods and many other consumer goods, which are manifesting themselves in increasingly visible ways:
- Restaurants are closing down or running out of popular items, such as chicken wings or milkshakes.
- There is a backlog of about 70,000 healthy hogs on farms, due to a lack of workers on farms and at pork processing plants. The National Pig Association is warning that its members are weeks away from euthanizing healthy pigs.
- The heads of two major grocery chains say their plans to build food stocks for the Christmas season are being disrupted, with one estimating that the UK needs about 100,000 more truck drivers.
“If fast action is not taken on [labor shortages], the impacts which we are already seeing will worsen — including supply-chain disruption, on-shelf shortages and potentially closures in the hospitality sector,” the head of Britain’s Food & Drink Federation told Financial Times. “This is ever more important in the context of the autumn being a key time for suppliers to ensure capacity is available in advance of Christmas demand.”
Business groups in the UK are asking the government to add meat industry workers, truck drivers and others in short supply to the list of those with expedited immigration status. The government has so far confined preferential treatment to highly skilled workers with offers of well-paid jobs.