One in six adults in Great Britain – almost nine million people – have not been able to buy essential food items in the past two weeks as the country is blighted by a supply chain crisis.
According to an Office for National Statistics survey, 17 per cent of adults could not buy some of the grocery products they needed between 22 September and 3 October.
Nearly a quarter of respondents – some 23 per cent – said they had been unable to buy other non-essential food items.
A further 15 per cent told the ONS they had been unable to buy fuel for their vehicle during the fortnight, as forecourts ran dry.
Grim up north
Grocery shortages appear to have been felt most acutely in the north-east and east Midlands, where a fifth of adults told the ONS they had not been able to buy the items they needed.
Almost two-thirds of consumers – 61 per cent – reported noticing differences in the shops compared with usual, including seeing less variety on shelves.
Supply shortages have also hit the availability of medicines or prescriptions, with 23 per cent of adults reporting differences – including people having to wait longer for prescriptions.
Boris Johnson has appointed former Tesco chief executive Sir Dave Lewis as a supply chain adviser to fix both the immediate crisis facing a number of British industries and prevent future chaos.
Sir Dave, who stepped down from the supermarket giant in September last year after turning around its fortunes following its major accounting scandal, will work with the prime minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay.
Johnson said: “There are currently global supply issues which we are working with industry to mitigate and Dave brings a wealth of experience which will help us continue to protect our businesses and supply chains.”
No 10 said Sir Dave would work on both immediate improvements and any necessary long-term changes to UK supply chains for goods, and will work with Government officials to quickly resolve acute, short-term issues.
A statement said this would include “both identifying the causes of current blockages and pre-empting potential future ones, and advising on resolutions either through direct government action or through industry with government support”.
Enter Sir Dave
Sir Dave, who will be based in the Cabinet Office and has been appointed until the end of the year, will also co-chair a new supply chain advisory group and the new industry taskforce. He starts in the role on Monday.
No 10 said: “Businesses have faced a range of challenges over recent months as they recover from the global pandemic which has impacted supply chains across Europe and around the world.
“The government has acted quickly to introduce a series of measures to relieve pressure on vital supply chains, including by streamlining the testing process for HGV drivers, creating skills bootcamps to train up HGV drivers, as well as introducing short-term visas for fuel drivers, food haulage drivers and poultry workers to ease pressures facing these supply chains.”
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News “we’re right at the tail end” of the situation with fuel supply pressures.
He said in “most parts of the country” problems have ended, and that London and the South East are the only two areas “where we’re seeing any continued problems”.