Supply chain crisis in the East threatens to hit shelves this Christmas

  • Watch Matthew Hudson's report for ITV News Anglia

A lack of lorry drivers, a shortage of poultry workers and not enough vegetable pickers has sparked fears of empty shelves this Christmas.

At Wreford's Transport in Northampton around half the company's 70 lorries are currently parked up because of a national lack of drivers.

Big pay rises to keep the ones they have got will ultimately cost all of us.

Andrew Wreford, from Wreford's Transport, said: "It's going to effect everybody because eventually the costs that we're having to implement through drivers wage increases and things like that, we have to pass on to the customers."

A shortage of lorry drivers could lead to empty shelves in shops. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Central  Bedfordshire council has even apologised for not resuming garden waste collections due to "a national shortage of drivers".

Many drivers have returned to Europe, others have retired or left the sector, and no driving tests during the pandemic means no replacements.

It's leading empty shelves at warehouses such as Andersons Wholesale in Thetford.

They supply Father Christmas with thousands of wrapped grotto presents along with toys, books and seasonal gifts. But stock is slow to arrive this year.

Paul Meader, from Andersons, said: "We normally get our stock in July and August and we're finding now that the stock is coming in in September and October.

"It's about two months late. We're not over fussed because we use several suppliers both in China and the UK so the children will get their present from Father Christmas as normal."

Stock has been arriving late at Andersons Wholesale in Thetford. Credit: ITV News Anglia

But what will we be eating by Christmas? Mark Gorton produces hundreds of thousands of free range turkeys including Norfolk blacks and bronzes.

Normally he would employ 600 seasonal workers - the majority from eastern Europe - but post Brexit immigration rules have caused a chronic shortage.

Mark Gorton said: "We're in a nightmare situation. We have all of our turkeys on the ground growing on our farms so we are committed to growing them, but at the moment we don't know how we are going to put them through our factory with no staff."

A lack of poultry workers means we could see a turkey shortage at Christmas. Credit: ITV News Anglia

At Naylor Farms near Spalding the same issues. They're expecting 30 per cent of their white cabbages to rot in the ground. 

Many of the highly skilled European staff they rely on to harvest the crop are stuck on the mainland.

Simon Naylor, from Naylor Farms, said: "We're talking about perishable goods that need to be harvested when they're ready.

"We're going to have a period now from mid September to Christmas where there's going to be shortage."

It may be premature to talk of a ruined Christmas. But just about everyone seems to agree that there are no quick fixes to current problems.

Cabbages are being left to rot in the ground because of a shortage of pickers. Credit: ITV News Anglia