Co-op boss warns UK’s current food shortage is ‘worst’ he’s ever seen

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The current food shortage in the UK is at the worst level in decades, Britain’s one of the biggest supermarket’s boss said on Wednesday (25).

Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-operative Group- that has 4,000 stores across the UK- said the group has been forced to reduce its range on offer in stores as a result of post-Brexit migration and Covid.

“The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen,” Murrells told Times, blaming “Brexit and issues caused by Covid” for the acute staff shortage crisis, including fruit pickers and meat processors as well as HGV drivers.

Instead, Co-op is now retraining members of its staff to drive lorries to help deal with the loss of drivers in the industry amid reports that around 14,000 European drivers had left the country last year while only 600 returned.

The impact of supply chain shortages is already being felt on the ground, with McDonald’s reported to have run out of milkshakes and bottled drinks this week, while Nando’s and KFC reported a shortage of chicken.

Retail bosses have been warning that the industry is facing a shortfall of 90,000 lorry drivers, threatening a shortage of staple foods and popular gifts.

Last week, Britons were warned by the meat processors body British Poultry Association- which include 2 Sisters Food Group and KellyBronze Turkeys-  that there may not be enough chicken this Christmas as due to shortage in labour, meat processing companies are cutting down the number of animals they rear for the festive period. 

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said a labour shortage meant the industry was already “six weeks behind” on getting ready for Christmas and “not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel”.

Apart from Brexit, global factors are relevant too, as per reports, including Chinese port closures and a lack of shipping containers- something which is adding up to cause shortages across the globe, including the US.