How turkey, toy and tree shortages could take the sparkle out of Christmas
After Covid (and Boris Johnson) cancelled Christmas as we know it for many last year, Christmas 2021 was destined to be extra special.
But the pandemic and a host of other problems could mean this year's festive season also looks very different. While families and friends will hopefully be able to gather as normal this year, a compendium of meat, toy, staff and fuel shortages could mean a leaner festive season.
The HGV driver crisis has hit fuel supplies at petrol stations, triggering a wave of panic buying that has put a further squeeze on supply. This coupled with global supply chain disruption due to the pandemic is likely to affect Christmas supermarket shelves and toy deliveries.
How could these factors affect Christmas 2021? Will there be food on the table and presents under the tree (will there even be a tree)?
Turkey, pigs in blankets and seasonal hams could be off the menu come 25 December as industry experts warn stocks of Christmas dinner favourites could run low.
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said the industry is short about 15,000 workers which has meant it has fallen months behind usual production schedules and that traditional Christmas foods would likely be squeezed as a consequence.
As a result, this Christmas might be the year we stop pretending to like turkey as a shortage of agricultural workers following Brexit has brought turkey production down an estimated 20%.
About nine million turkeys are reared for Christmas, according to the British Poultry Council, but farmers are warning that will be significantly reduced this year.
Turkey farmer Paul Kelly told ITV News: "This Christmas, there will not be the amount of British turkeys in retailers because they're physically not going to be there, because companies, the turkey farmers have made the decision they're not going to be able to pluck them and process them."
And it is not just our meat that could be affected, the two veg might also be impacted. A lack of staff in the field and staff in the processing factories mean firms are being forced to throw away hundreds of tonnes of fresh food Julian Marks, of farming company Barfoots Foods, told ITV News that a shortage of workers meant his firm had to chuck 500 to 600 tonnes of courgettes.
The likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Co-op, Aldi and Asda have all begun selling Christmas puddings, chocolate treats and more, with some stores even imploring customers to buy now to avoid possible shortages closer to the big day.
A Tesco branch in Edinburgh has even been pictured with signs reading “stock up early” along an aisle crammed with festive products.
Will there be toys under the tree?
There are a number of reasons why Christmas stockings may be a little lighter than usual this year.
The HGV driver shortage and resulting fuel crisis has left retailers struggling to fill shelves.
Some retailers, including John Lewis, are taking matters into their own hands, and are chartering a fleet of extra ships to tackle supply chain woes in time for Christmas.
John Lewis chairwoman Sharon White has said the department store is “going very hard and really fast to make sure Christmas gets saved for our customers”, including bringing in Christmas tree and bauble orders earlier.
In a further twist to this sorry Christmas tale, power problems in China mean many gifts and goods destined for the UK in time for the festive season may be disrupted and delayed.
Factories have been forced to close after energy rationing was introduced in much of the country in response to supply constraints, soaring prices and stricter environmental controls.
The interruption to factories and utilities will affect the supply of everything, from gadgets by the world’s leading tech companies like Apple, to textiles, toys, and even Christmas decorations.
And it could be a quieter Christmas in many ways, with a global shortage of computer chips impacting the supply of some of the most popular toys for children, such as interactive pets which have microchips that respond to your voice or touch.
Toy retailer, The Entertainer, has also urged shoppers to get organised now, warning that it has been unable to use the full quantity of shipping containers to import stock.
The Entertainer founder Gary Grant said: “If you know what you want to buy your child, don’t be chasing round the country in December.
“I would genuinely recommend putting things away early.”
Will there be a Christmas tree to put the presents under?
The UK buys around eight to 10 million real Christmas trees a year, importing between one and three million of those from other European countries, according to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA),
Tree company ChristmasTrees.co.uk warned we could see a festive shortage due to this year's challenges, including difficulties getting real trees into Britain from abroad.
The company said it was "harder than ever" to find the labour needed to look after and harvest trees.
Owner Mark Rofe said : “We’ve spoken to our UK growers and they are all facing the same challenges.
"They are seeing an increase in demand for their product, especially from clients who would usually import their trees from Europe, but are keen to avoid any red-tape that could increase costs or cause delays for what is of course a highly seasonal and time-sensitive business."
What about the work Christmas lunch?
If your workplace is reinstating the work Christmas do, your boss may want to book now.
Many restaurants and bars are struggling to recruit staff and some have even been forced to close their doors. Steak chain Hawksmoor, which has eight restaurants in the UK, offered employees over the summer up to £2,000 if they recruit friends to work with them.
Caravan, a London restaurant chain also offered customers £100 gift cards if they could recommend staff to join their firm.
Wagamama's chief executive Thomas Heier said he was struggling to fill chef vacancies in around 30 sites. He attributed the lack of staff to Brexit impacting the number of European workers looking for jobs in the UK.UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has suggested that similar “Covid recovery visas” should also be introduced to help revitalise the service industry.