Christmas wine shortage predicted due to lorry driver shortage

Thousands of HGV driver positions are vacant, meaning retailers may struggle to keep up with demand this Christmas (Picture: Getty)

The chief executive of Britain’s biggest wine company has told people to expect higher prices and empty shelves this Christmas.

Customers could find a national shortage of lorry drivers affects what’s on offer when demand goes up over the festive period.

Retailers and suppliers across the economy are struggling to meet demand because thousands of drivers have left the country post-lockdown.

Robert Foye, the boss of the UK’s largest wine firm, has warned shoppers not to expect the usual range of choices when it comes to getting the Christmas booze in.

His company, Accolade, owns popular brands including Hardys, Echo Falls, Kumala, Banrock Station and Stowells.

He told the BBC: ‘These shortages, if they continue, could definitely impact Christmas. 

‘We are trying to get ahead of it, but it does depend on the situation for the entire transport and trucking industry in the UK.’

A Wines from Europe banner hangs next to bottles of wine in the alcohol section of a Morrisons supermarket, operated by Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc, in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Morrisons reported a growth in profits in their most recent financial year, boosted by food price inflation. Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Existing supply chain problems could become more visible during the Christmas rush (Picture: Getty)
Costs could rise as suppliers struggle to cope with demand (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

He added that the company is working to avoid the outcome but said ‘ultimately costs will go up’.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates the UK has a shortage of around 100,000 drivers. 

Ministers have resisted calls from some in the industry to include the job on the list of shortage occupations for which visas can be issued more readily.

Rules governing how long a driver can legally be on the road for before taking a break have been relaxed in an attempt to ease the pressure on the industry.

Labour has urged the government to take action, claiming 250,000 businesses are facing increased operating costs because of the shortage.

The party called for the appointment of a minister with specific responsibility for tackling the supply chain ‘crisis’, a taskforce to help with recruitment, and 100,000 new apprentices this financial year to help boost employment in sectors of the economy.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: ‘The government must get a grip on the supply chain crisis facing our economy. While they act as if the problem will solve itself, businesses are telling government these problems are only going to grow.’

He said issues in the sector ‘will not be solved by making drivers work longer hours but by training workers and improving their terms and conditions’.

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