Christmas supply chain issues as the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortages is set to continue and as the festive season beckons, a peak time for the Wine and Spirits industry, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for the government has been urged to take action. Else, consumers could be hit with low Christmas alcohol stocks.

Why shortages at Christmas?

Generally, over the festive season, Britons consume nearly 10 times more than the average consumed on a regular night out. Overall, the British public will consume almost as much as 6 billion units of alcohol over the festive holiday period. However, if bottles of alcohol are missing from dinner tables, this would not be possible.

Christmas supply chain issues and WSTA

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) represents a number of major brands including the Wine Society, Moet Hennessy, Pernod Ricard and Campari and has written to the government’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, telling him companies are still struggling to get drinks to customers and urged ministers to “ease the burden”. The letter states: “Businesses are still struggling, and further action is needed, particularly now in the run up to Christmas – a critical trading period for our sector.” HGV driver shortages could hit Christmas alcohol stocks, industry warns. It added: “This is an urgent issue for our businesses, and it is imperative that Government takes immediate steps to help mitigate the impact of the driver shortages crisis before the Christmas period.”

WSTA’s suggestions

WSTA is calling to urgently extend the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers which is currently set until the end of February 2022 and replace this shorter visa period with something a bit more long term such as a minimum one year period. This, WSTA believes would “ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers”.

WSTA also want better routing for freights at ports and would also like more regular updates from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in relation to HGV driving tests and licences. The latter, as part of the backlog that has been building and particularly during the lockdown periods caused by the pandemic. Highlighted in our article from August Lorry Driver Shortages Lead To Supply Chain Issues.

Christmas supply chain issues, the government response

The government said: “We do not expect disruption to the supply of alcohol this Christmas”.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK has a strong food supply chain and we do not expect disruption to the supply of alcohol this Christmas.

“The government acted quickly to tackle the challenges to our supply chains, which were brought on by global pressures including the pandemic and the international shortage of HGV drivers.”

It has invested £32.5m in roadside facilities for hauliers, put £17m into creating new HGV skills bootcamps, and launched a review of training, the spokesperson said.

“These measures are working, cutting the backlog through a huge increase in vocational licences issued and HGV tests conducted compared to before the pandemic, and there is now spare capacity in the testing system.”

WSTA response to government

Imports are now taking anything up to five times longer than a year ago, before Brexit. The letter also suggests that drinks businesses were still struggling and more action was needed in the run up to Christmas – “a critical trading period for our sector”.

“Businesses like ours previously able to fulfil orders in two to three days now have to operate on a day one for day fifteen basis,” the letter said.

WSTA go on to state that in addition to delivery issues in the supply chain regarding HGV drivers, businesses are reporting increased costs of around 7% and sometimes more by freight forwarders in respect of driver retention.

Christmas but not as we know it, possibly

Alcohol is not the only tradition in the UK when it comes to how we celebrate at the dinner table. There’s a further warning which comes as food distributors also warned government MPs that consumers could and probably would face less choice with food products this Christmas because of the supply chain issues.

Shane Brennan, head of the Cold Chain Federation, which represents companies involved in storage and distribution of chilled and frozen products, said suppliers were scaling back plans to ensure they can deliver. “It’s about reducing the amount of goods you’re expected to put on the shelves,” Mr Brennan said.

Christmas And Supply Chains. There is no way of knowing if any of the concerns will actually occur until consumer behavior is gauged and that can only be done in the actual run up to Christmas.

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