The country is facing a summer of food shortages likened to a series of “rolling power cuts” because of a loss of 100,000 lorry drivers due to Covid & Brexit, industry chiefs have warned.
The Guardian has spoken to one Polish driver, who had lived in the country before Brexit, who arrived in Doncaster Sheffield airport to respond to the crisis but was refused entry by border force because he did not have enough evidence at the airport to support his settled status claim.
In a letter to Boris Johnson they have called for an urgent intervention to allow eastern European drivers back into the country on special visas, similar to those issued to farm pickers, warning that there is a “crisis” in the supply chain due to Brexit.
They have said shortages of workers in warehouses and food processing centres are also having an impact with packing food for supermarket shelves.
Tesco bosses raised the issue at a meeting with the transport minister Lady Vere, last week warning that the vacancies were creating 48 tonnes of food waste each week.
Sources at the supermarket chain said the lorry driver shortage was affecting fresh food with short shelf life most.
A British blueberry farmer’s story
James Mee, a blueberry farmer from Peterborough, said the shortages of food with short shelf life could also hit Wimbledon, synonymous with the British strawberry.
He warned that unless there was government intervention, food could rot in the fields with concerns being raised in the farming community for the late summer grain harvest in addition to soft fruits.
“We have been told by the haulier company we have used for years that they can only come and pick up our fruit once a week. But the fruit only have a five-day shelf life so we need picking up every day. If we can’t get our fruit to the supermarkets, that is massively significant,” said Mee.
The letter to the prime minister was signed by the Food and Drink Federation, British Frozen Food Federation, Federation of Wholesale Distributors, Cold Chain Federation, British Meat Producers Association and the British Beer and Pub Association.
“We firmly believe that intervention from the prime minister/Cabinet Office is the only way we will be able to avert critical supply chains failing at an unprecedented and unimaginable level. Supermarkets are already reporting that they are not receiving their expected food stocks and, as a result, there is considerable wastage,” it said.