A nationwide shortage of delivery drivers would have led to thousands of pubs and restaurants being unable to fully open on the original ‘freedom day’ of 21 June, according to the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD).
The FWD is urging the government to use the additional four weeks of restrictions to prepare and prevent distribution issues from happening on the new date of 19 July, while the Daily Mail reports that the Cold Chain Federation has warned of a shortage of chilled goods in supermarkets this year for the same reason.
Food wholesalers, producers, and operators have all struggled to find HGV-qualified drivers to ensure the supply chain continues to run smoothly, even with the hospitality industry operating at well below full capacity.
Distributors have reduced the number of deliveries they make to shops and restaurants, or reduce the volume of stock available for customers to order, resulting in availability challenges in stores and kitchens.
The government has so far refused to adopt any measures to alleviate the driver shortage, for example, a temporary extension of the hours drivers are allowed to work, speeding up the qualification process for new drivers, or allowing drivers from the EU to fill vacancies.
FWD chief executive James Bielby, said: “The driver shortage in the food supply chain is at crisis point, leading to massive waste and empty shelves. This week we met Department for Transport ministers and told them they need to operate on a crisis footing. They are not, and we’re sleepwalking towards disaster.
“If ministers don’t heed this warning, we’re looking at an even worse nightmare scenario on 19 July and it will Freedom Day in name only.”
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