Reuters A shopping trolley was pushed around a supermarket in London, UK on May 1, 2015.
By Guy Falconbridge, James Davy and Kate Halton
LONDON (Reuters) – Consumers should not panic because Britain is not going back to the “winter of discontent” strikes and power crisis of the 1970s, a junior minister said on Thursday.
Rising wholesale prices in Europe have sent shock waves through energy, chemical and steel producers and strand supply chains that have already cracked due to labor shortages and the unrest in Brexit.
After gas prices caused a shortage of carbon dioxide, Britain was forced to raise emergency support to avoid a shortage of poultry and meat.
Tesco (OTC :), Britain’s largest supermarket group, told government officials last week that the shortage of truck drivers would lead to a growing panic over sales.
Carbonated beverage and water supermarket shelves were left empty in some places, and turkey producers warned that if carbon dioxide deficiencies continued, families could be left without their traditional themed turkey lunch at Christmas.
“There’s no need for people to panic outside,” Small Business Minister Paul Scully told Times Radio.
“Look, this is not the 1970s,” he said when asked if Britain was going back to a winter of discontent – a reference to the winter of 1978-79 when inflation and the industrial system disrupted the economy.
A Tesco spokesman said the group currently has good availability although it said the lack of HGV drivers has created “some delivery challenges”.
“Availability may vary in some product segments but alternatives are available,” said a spokesman for PlayStation 2.
Supermarkets and farmers have called on the UK to reduce labor shortages in key areas – especially truck drivers, processing and sorting – which has forced food supply discipline.
The trucking industry needs an additional 20,000,000 drivers to meet the demand after Brexit made it harder for European workers to drive in Britain, and the epidemic prevents new workers from qualifying.
“My business is short of about 100 HGV drivers, and that makes it very difficult for us to provide service in our stores,” said Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland’s supermarket.
“This is a matter of concern and since we want to build stock as an industry, during our bumper year of the year, to work towards Christmas, we are now facing this shortage at the worst time. I am worried.”
The National Farmers Union has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to introduce a new visa regime on an emergency basis to address labor shortages across the supply chain.
Rising natural gas prices are adding to the feeling of chaos. Six energy suppliers have gone out of business this month, with nearly 1.5 million customers facing bill increases.
Just over a month ago, Johnson, the host of world leaders at the United Nations Climate Conference, known as COP26, was a power producer. Drax Group (LON 🙂 plc said it could keep its coal-fired power plants running outside of their planned shutdown next year.
The UK is in talks with electricity regulator Ofzem about whether consumer gas and electricity prices could rise, Scully said.
The cap was brought by energy companies to stop measuring consumers but has now made their businesses unprofitable because it is below the wholesale price, meaning consumers are being subsidized by energy companies.
The October 1 price increase increased 12% to 27 1,277 (7 1,740) using a family’s average amount of energy, and will be reviewed again in April 2022 under normal circumstances.