Britain faces a Christmas alcohol shortage unless the government does more to address the shortage of truck drivers, a group of 48 wine and spirits companies told the transport secretary.
In a letter to Grant Shapps, companies such as Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy and the Wine Society said rising costs and “chaos” in the supply chain had delayed deliveries of wines and spirits, increasing the risk that the supermarkets are silent and that the festive deliveries arrive late.
Members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which coordinated the letter, reported that it took up to five times longer to import products than a year ago, two-day orders taking more than two weeks to process.
Freight costs increased by around 7%, the WSTA said, as delivery companies had to increase the wages of heavy truck drivers to keep them, which made it especially difficult for small businesses that struggle to compete. on wages with bigger rivals.
Drivers and vehicles are increasingly unpredictable in their arrival times, which means goods are not ready or waiting to be picked up, according to WSTA members.
The beverage companies have asked Shapps to extend the temporary visa program for heavy truck drivers to one year, which expires in February 2022.
They also want the government to step in to help streamline congested freight routes from ports and provide more regular updates on the number of heavy truck driver’s licenses processed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Miles Beale, CEO of WSTA, said: “Our members are increasingly concerned that unless urgent action is taken we will sink deeper into the chaos of delivery.
“We are already seeing significant delays in delivery times for wines and spirits, increasing costs and limiting the range of products available to UK consumers.
“The government must do everything possible to ensure that UK businesses do not operate with one hand tied behind their backs during the holiday season and beyond.”
The alcohol industry is the latest in a long line of sectors to warn of possible Christmas shortages amid supply chain difficulties, with concerns also over deliveries of turkeys, trees and toys.
On Wednesday, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, a trade body representing the temperature-controlled logistics industry, told MPs to expect a reduced range of food items available for purchase this holiday season. .
Shane Brennan told the Commons Transport Select Committee, “It’s not about scarcity, it’s about simplifying. Having less reach is obviously one of the key decisions you can make in trying to make supply chains more efficient.
“And it’s about reducing the amount of merchandise you’re supposed to put on the shelves, and then working with customers to make it clear.
“We are very good at stacking high and selling low at Christmas time. What we need to do is strategically reduce this in order to keep the promise that there will be the things you expect to see on the shelves, but not necessarily all the extras. “
The supply chain faces a number of pressures, such as the departure of drivers from the sector and difficulties in recruiting new ones, border issues and delays in the movement of sea containers.