'Nightmare' Christmas: Nut roasts may replace turkey, experts say

Expect a ‘nightmare’ Christmas, shoppers are warned: Nut roasts may replace turkey, beer could be in short supply, shelves will be empty and must-have toys will be harder to buy than ever, experts say

  • Beer and turkeys could be in short supply this Christmas amid driver crisis
  • Retail analyst said: ‘People on Christmas Day will ask “What the hell is this?”
  • Ministers are introducing visa scheme that will apply to 5,000 HGV drivers 
  • Shoppers have been warned to expect a ‘nightmare’ Christmas as nut roasts may replace turkeys and beer could be in short supply.

    Shelves will be empty and must-have toys will be harder to find than ever this December, Britain’s biggest retailers predict.

    It comes after Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, admitted the fuel crisis could affect Christmas as he revealed the government’s reserve tanker fleet would be deployed.

    When asked if the situation would continue in the run up to Christmas he said: ‘I’m not guaranteeing anything; all I’m saying is that I think the situation is stabilising.’

    Clive Black, a retail analyst at Shore Capital told The Times Britons will ask ‘what the hell is this’ when they look at their plate on Christmas Day.

    Beer could be in short supply, shelves will be empty and must-have toys will be harder to find than ever, Britain's biggest retailers predict (file image)

    Beer could be in short supply, shelves will be empty and must-have toys will be harder to find than ever, Britain’s biggest retailers predict (file image)

    He added: ‘It won’t be traditional. They may be eating other meats and nut roasts. Equally if the CO2 problem does not settle, expect beer and carbonated soft drinks to be in short supply and a lot more expensive. 

    ‘Christmas 2021 is going to be much pricier generally because of the costs the food and distribution industries are facing.’

    He said the shortages wouldn’t have ‘anything to do with Brexit’, but have been caused by a ‘mismanagement of the economy’.

    He blasted David Kennedy, the director-general for food at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for being ‘a disgrace’.

    Mr Black said it was too late to save Christmas and there is likely to be a shortage of toys, bicycles, sofas and electronic goods because of port delays.

    Meanwhile, the Government is introducing a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers brought in for three-month contracts in an attempt to quell the fuel delivery issues and supermarket shortages. 

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the plan would help bring an end to the ‘100 to 200’ shortfall of fuel tanker drivers, adding that ministers are planning to train an additional 4,000 lorry drivers with the help of the Army to reduce the ‘bottleneck’ in HGV driving tests.   

    Andrew Opie, of the trade group, said the UK faces a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers, with the visa scheme 'insufficient in size and scope to prevent Christmas disruption' (file image)

    Andrew Opie, of the trade group, said the UK faces a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers, with the visa scheme ‘insufficient in size and scope to prevent Christmas disruption’ (file image)

    Andrew Opie, of the trade group, said the UK faces a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers, with the visa scheme ‘insufficient in size and scope to prevent Christmas disruption’.

    Clothes retailer Next said its prices were likely to rise during the Christmas season.         

    A Defra spokesman said the UK has a ‘resilient food supply chain’ which has held up so far and ‘will do so over the festive period’.

    CEO of Scottish Food & Drink, James Withers, said: ‘We have been calling for emergency visas for weeks to avoid the collapse of some food supply chains.

    ‘I seriously doubt that 10,000 three month visas are going to cut it. It may help the driver situation a little, but it won’t address the chronic staff shortage in food production. At this stage, my instinct is that this is too little, too late to make a real difference to the Christmas trade.’

    People fill up their vehicles with fuel at a petrol station in London, United Kingdom on September 28

    People fill up their vehicles with fuel at a petrol station in London, United Kingdom on September 28

    The DVLA now say there are more than 54,000 applications for HGV licences that need processing – but some are likely to be renewals.

    It comes after British drivers hunted for hours or sat in queues to fill their tanks with dozens of forecourts closed, adorned with signs saying they had no petrol or diesel.

    A post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers, exacerbated by a halt to truck-driving-licence testing during COVID lockdowns and people leaving the haulage industry, has sown chaos through supply chains, raising the spectre of shortages and price rises in the run up to Christmas.

    Britain put a limited number of military tanker drivers on a state of readiness to be deployed to deliver fuel if necessary.

    Government’s emergency fuel plan suggests rationing and priority pumps for NHS and police are on the way 

    Rationing of fuel and filling stations just for emergency workers are the likely next steps in the crisis, Government documents reveal.

    Under an emergency government plan (pictured), key workers could be given ‘priority access’ to a number of petrol stations. 

    The plan involves capping the amount of fuel drivers can buy and letting critical workers have ‘priority access’ to pumps.

    Another option, the designated filling station scheme, could see ’emergency and critical service vehicles’ having priority access. This was done by Tony Blair’s government during the 2000 fuel crisis.

    The document, published last year, reveals the Government’s next steps are:

    Designated Filling Station scheme: Emergency and critical service vehicles would be given priority access to road fuel from filling stations

    Bulk Distribution Scheme: Oil companies and fuel distributors can be directed to prioritise the delivery of bulk petroleum products to critical services such as emergency services, utilities and public transport.

    Commercial Distribution Scheme: Oil companies and fuel distributors can be directed to prioritise the supply of road diesel to the commercial vehicles sector to support the operation of key supply chains, such as food and health.

    Maximum Purchase Scheme (rationing): This restricts the sale of road fuels at retail filling stations to the public to a maximum amount per visit to ensure that all motorists have access to some fuel.

    The scheme can also limit the hours in which road fuels can be sold.

    Crude Oil and Imported Product Allocation Scheme: Government can formally allocate crude oil and other imported oil products within the UK.  

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    Mr Shapps and some gas station operators reported the situation appeared to be easing as reserves at some gas stations had been replenished.

    ‘We’re starting to see very tentative signs of stabilisation which won’t yet be reflected in the queues,’ Shapps told reporters.

    ‘The sooner we all return to our normal buying habits, the quicker this gets resolved – and I do appeal to the public to do that. In particular, no more water bottles at petrol stations: its dangerous and not helpful.’

    Industry groups said the worst of the shortages seemed to be in London and other English cities where many gas stations remained closed. Fights broke out at some forecourts as drivers jostled for fuel and pictures on social media showed some people filling up old water bottles with fuel.

    There have also been growing calls for medics, healthcare staff and other essential workers to be given priority to fill their cars to keep hospitals and social care services running.

    An air of chaos has gripped the world’s fifth-largest economy in recent weeks as the shortage of truckers strained supply chains and a spike in European wholesale natural gas prices tipped energy companies into bankruptcy.

    Retailers, truck drivers and logistics companies have warned that prices for everything from energy to Christmas gifts will have to rise.

    ‘I can’t believe it – it’s crazy,’ said David Scade, a 33-year-old delivery driver who drove for hours searching for fuel in London.

    ‘They keep saying there is no shortage but I suppose everyone is panicking now.’ 

    The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers who account for 65 per cent of all the 8,380 UK forecourts, said there were early signs the crisis was ending.

    ‘We have conducted a survey of our members this morning and only 37% of forecourts have reported being out of fuel today. With regular restocks taking place, this percentage is likely to improve further over the next 24 hours,’ said Gordon Balmer, the PRA Executive Director.

    The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers. But some Polish hauliers said that offer was laughable and that few would be likely to take it up, and the German freight industry said drivers who left after Brexit would not go back.

    Hauliers, petrol stations and retailers say there are no quick fixes as the shortfall of truck drivers – estimated at about 100,000 – is so acute, and because transporting fuel demands additional training and licensing.

    Ministers want businesses relying on truck drivers to pay more and offer better conditions, rather than count on cheap foreign labour. But hauliers and other businesses say that can only be a long-term fix, while in the meantime it will mean prices increasing and the risk of a prolonged rise in inflation.

    Analysts cited concerns about the impact on the economy if fuel shortages persisted as a factor in sterling falling by more than 1 per cent versus the dollar and the euro.

    The BRC urged the government to broaden the size and scope of the visa scheme to attract the truckers needed to keep Christmas supplies on track.

    ‘It will take many months before there are enough new British drivers to cover the shortfall,’ said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC. 

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