Posted: 22/09/2021

‘Christmas is at risk’, warns food industry chief


A key figure in the food sector has described staff shortages as “extremely serious” and warned that “Christmas is at risk”. 

“Without government action, it is going to get worse,” said James Withers, chief executive of industry body Scotland Food and Drink, on social media in August. “Food supply chains are at breaking point.”

Withers told FFD the impact of Brexit and the pandemic on staffing levels would “be felt across all food retail”, adding that independents faced reduced choice “particularly across red meat, seafood and bakery – key sectors for a successful Christmas trading period”.

He urged retailers to maintain strong communication with customers and suppliers over the next few weeks.

“We’ve heard of suppliers going over and above to deliver direct to store,” he said. “That may be critically important if haulage firms prioritise the big accounts.

“A lot of Scottish artisan producers are based in the highlands and islands and at the end of a courier run so will appreciate getting advance notice of what stock is needed. Tell your customers about what local products you have in stock.”

Withers called for measures including a temporary visa to allow more overseas staff into the country to tackle the staffing crisis.

Food and Drink Federation Scotland wrote a letter to home secretary Priti Patel in August calling for an easing of migration rules, and warning: “We need action now to save Christmas”.

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