Iceland MD says Christmas supply chain at risk

Iceland MD says Christmas supply chain at risk

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, warned that further disruptions to the food supply chain could lead to bigger stock problems months along the line.

Iceland managing director, Richard Walker.

Walker told the BBC that Christmas was in danger of being “cancelled” if the driver shortage is not dealt with by the government. He explained: “The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute.”

Walker added that the current shortages were having a daily impact of the food supply chain. He said: “We’ve had deliveries cancelled for the first time since the pandemic began, about 30 to 40 deliveries a day.”

“A simple solution”

Iceland’s managing director said that the “simple solution” to the current issues was to recruit more drivers from overseas by adding HGV drivers to the UK’s skilled workers list.

When asked about Brexit’s impact on the current issues, the MD said that the shortage was a “self-inflicted wound rather than an inevitable consequence of Brexit.” Walker added that the issues have been caused by “the government’s failure to appreciate the importance of HGV drivers and the work they do for us.”

“No reason to panic buy”

Tony Allan, Tesco chairman, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that he didn’t want “overdramatise” the driver crisis as availability in Tesco stores is currently “very close” to their targets – “within 1 or 2%.”

He added that there was “no reason for customers to panic buy” but stated that staff were working hard to maintain current availability, and that the driver shortage was affecting this.

Allan agreed with Richard Walker that HGV drivers should be added to the skilled workers list, even if the change in rules would allow for an extension of a year.

The Road Haulage Association estimated that there is a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers across the UK, a situation that has been exacerbated by the effects of Brexit, Covid-19, new tax rules and a lack of testing centres.

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