The small businesses facing tough winter as UK supply chain crisis threatens livelihoods

Luke and Lisa Scott put all their money into a business importing eco-friendly coffee cups. Credit: ITV News

If you sat in a petrol queue last month, or wondered why there are empty shelves at the supermarket, or even why it took so long to get served food in your local pub: then you’ll know something's gone seriously awry with the smooth running of life, as we start to pull out of the pandemic. Some have called it a media mirage - temporary difficulties blown out of proportion, prompting undue panic. But the facts on the ground are impossible to ignore. On this week’s Tonight programme - we’re taking a close look at what’s fast become a supply chain crisis.

We hear from Luke and Lisa Scott - who gave up their jobs and put all their money into a business importing eco-friendly coffee cups from Vietnam and China.

It was going great guns - even Google in California wanted to buy their product. But since the pandemic hit - massively disrupting shipping - the cost of getting a container from China has gone from £750 to an eye watering £10,000.

And even if they do manage to get a container delivered: they struggle to get an HGV driver to pick up the goods, because of a shortage of drivers. Their stocks are running low - and they have only a few months to save their business. Up in Suffolk - David Moss runs a group of gastro-pubs. He’s struggling to get staff, who no longer want to work anti-social hours, and can earn more as delivery drivers.

And he’s struggling to get ingredients and booze - because of the HGV crisis and ruptures in the global supply chain.

David Moss is struggling to get staff to work in his pubs. Credit: ITV News

On and on it goes. In Yorkshire - we meet the farmers broken-hearted with the prospect of culling their pigs, who they’ve raised for the meat industry.

With EU workers having gone home, there is a massive shortage in abattoir workers and butchers to process meat.

Many pig farmers are devastated at the prospect of their pigs being culled. Credit: ITV News

Pigs-in-blanket might be off the Christmas menu.

This might seem a first world problem: but those little sausages point to a big pressure for farmers, which won’t abate once the Christmas lights come down.

The supply chain crisis has multiple, complex reasons. A shortage of EU workers, leaving parts of the economy exposed - is clearly part of the new reality of Brexit.

But the pandemic plays a huge part too: with massive disruption of supply chains around the world. It’s a perfect storm. And that’s before you factor in rocketing energy prices, fears over rising inflation and an expected hike in interest rates.

The government knows it has to respond to the crisis and has brought in a raft of measures, pulling in the military to help with fuel deliveries and easing restrictions on some key workers coming into the country. But will it be enough? Watch 'Shortage UK: Is Britain Working? Tonight' on Friday 22 October at 8pm on ITV.