Boris Johnson has been asked to consider military intervention to avoid food shortages this summer.
Premier Foods, one of Britain’s biggest food companies, called on the government to consider using the army to distribute goods to help relieve a severe shortage of truck drivers.
Last week industry leaders warned Britain could face gaps on supermarket shelves this summer and an “unimaginable” collapse of supply chains after the pandemic and Brexit led to a shortage of more than 100,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.
At a meeting on Monday between officials from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and food industry representatives, Premier Foods’ delegate asked the government to consider using the army to distribute supplies, given that some military personnel hold HGV licenses.
Details of the meeting were first reported by ITV News.
“Just about keeping our head above water”
“This was one of many ideas put forward in an industry brainstorming session,” a spokesman for Premier Foods, which owns brands including Mr Kipling, Bisto, Ambrosia and Paxo, said on Friday.
“At Premier Foods, we have plans in place to manage the situation within our supply chain.”
A spokesman for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said it had not received a formal request to provide support. A government spokesperson later said: “There are no plans to use military personnel in this scenario.”
At the DEFRA meeting Chris Hall, head of logistics at Asda, Britain’s third largest supermarket group after Tesco and Sainsbury’s , said the grocer was “just about keeping our head above water”.
He warned however that any spike in demand this summer would “give us significant challenges and disruption”.
There has been a flurry of reaction to the news on social media.
Here’s what people have had to say:
Brexit, 2016:— David Schneider (@davidschneider) July 4, 2021
“I see no downsides to Brexit, only a considerable upside”
“There will be adequate food”
“Call in the army or we’ll starve” https://t.co/7Hqus1rvyI
Why isn’t anyone talking about these persistent shortages? Fruit and veg is particularly hit-and-miss, especially in smaller shops. And this is during the season the UK needs fewest imports. What happens in November? https://t.co/db3tiWacds— Alex Andreou (@sturdyAlex) July 3, 2021
Still shaking my head here. Lorry driver shortage and a food company wants to get the *army* to help out?— Jon Worth (@jonworth) July 4, 2021
You’ve got a worker supply problem, UK. Not a military problem. So maybe solve your immigration problem?
Remember when Project Fear warned that the Army would be brought in to do food deliveries after Brexit and the Brexitears laughed?— Jason J Hunter (Not a noble Lord) (@JJHTweets) July 4, 2021
UK Gvmnt now asking the Army to plan food deliveries because the Points based immigration system doesn’t allow EU truck drivers to work in UK!