Shoppers face possible food shortages at Christmas, Iceland boss Richard Walker warns

Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland said the chain has seen daily supply chain disruption. Credit: PA

Shoppers could be faced with food shortages over Christmas due to supply chain issues in supermarkets, the boss of Wales-based food retailer Iceland has warned.

Richard Walker told BBC Radio 4's World at One he estimated the UK's shortage of lorry drivers was now about 100,000, with the company itself about 100 short.

Retailers and restaurants chains, including Nando's and McDonald's, have also been hit by product shortages as other manufacturers blame staffing shortages at suppliers and a lack of lorry drivers.

Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland warned we have "Christmas around the corner" and in order to prepare, Iceland tends to start to stockbuild from September onwards.

"We've got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas, and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone," He said.

"The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we've already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute. I'd hate this one to be problematic as well."

Richard Walker warned the 'big shortage' in Lorry drivers would threaten Christmas products and deliveries. Credit: PA

Mr Walker added the chain has seen daily delivery cancellations as the disruption continues.

"We've had deliveries cancelled for the first time since the pandemic began, about 30 to 40 deliveries a day," he said.

The retailer said it has seen particular lines, such as bread and soft drinks, impacted by issues facing suppliers.

Tesco boss John Allan, also said the UK faced food shortages in the lead up to Christmas and that the "straightforward solution" to driver shortages would be "to allow UK industry to bring in skilled drivers from elsewhere".

"We are very short of drivers, it's a combination of many EU drivers having decided to go home and also the ageing age profile," he added.

"I think certainly Brexit has been a contributor to that but also improving economies, higher wages in some of the countries that they've come from historically, have also led to that flow."

He said there could be some shortages as a result but stressed it was important not to "over-dramatise" the extent of this issue yet.

Road haulage bosses have said there is a shortfall of around 100,000 drivers, partly caused by the exit from the UK during the pandemic.

Industry groups have also said training for new drivers is taking months, making the shortfall in numbers difficult to resolve quickly.

However, the problems pre-date the pandemic. Before Covid there was a shortage of about 60,000 drivers.