Wine and spirit businesses warn of Christmas alcohol shortages

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The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has called on the government to take urgent action over HGV driver shortages and freight disruption, warning that some of the favourite tipples run the risk of disappearing from the store shelves during the Christmas period.

In letter addressed to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, 48 wine and spirit businesses have joined the trade association, saying that rising costs and supply chain chaos have held up wine and spirit deliveries.

The WSTA said it has received multiple reports from its members who are highlighting that importing products is now taking up to five times longer, from two to three days a year ago to 15 days, to fulfil orders.

It added that costs have increased around 7 per cent, and often more, by freight forwarders to account for driver retention, noting that this is particularly a concern for SMEs who are unable to compete with large businesses to attract drivers.

“There is mounting concern amongst our membership that unless urgent action is taken, we will fall deeper into delivery chaos,” Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said.

“We are already seeing major delays on wine and spirit delivery times which is pushing up costs and limiting the range of products available to UK consumers. Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond.”

The letter asks the government to extend the temporary visa scheme from 28 February 2022 to a minimum of one year and actively facilitate better routing of freight from ports (e.g., rail, river, coastal freight) and smaller UK-based driver networks for short-haul journeys.