The army should be brought in to prevent an “unimaginable” collapse of supermarket supply chains this summer according to industry leaders.
Premier Foods, one of the UK’s largest food suppliers which owns brands including Mr Kipling, Ambrosia, Bird’s Custard, Angel Delight and HomePride, called on the government to bring in the armed forces to distribute goods as the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage continues to significantly disrupt supply chains.
During a meeting with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) last week, delegates from industry leaders including Premiere Foods and Asda said that while they were currently “just about keeping our head above water”, a spike in sales over summer could lead to gaps in supermarket shelves.
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It comes as the UK faces an estimated shortfall of around 100,000 HGV drivers, with a “perfect storm” of conditions meaning EU drivers are shunning the UK over Brexit while new local drivers are unable to complete their tests due to pandemic backlogs.
Despite the suggestions to use the military personnel, many of which hold HGV licences, a government spokesperson said there were “no plans to use military personnel in this scenario.”
The prime minister has also been called on in the House of Commons to address the issue, with both the Scottish National Party and the Road Haulage Association urging him to add HGV drivers to the “UK shortage occupation list” to allow EU drivers to come to the UK to work.
However, Boris Johnson has responded to the requests stating that: “I think the most important thing is to get our entire workforce back at work”, adding that the solutions were most likely to be commercial and come from within the industry.