Shoppers could struggle to buy alcohol this Christmas as HGV driver shortage bites, drinks companies warn

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Shoppers may struggle to buy their favourite wines and spirits this Christmas due to the shortage in HGV drivers, industry suppliers have warned.

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps telling him firms are still struggling to get drinks to customers and warning some drinks could “disappear from supermarket shelves”.

In the letter, signed by 48 major companies including Moet Hennessy and Campari, they wrote: “Businesses are still struggling, and further action is needed, particularly now in the run up to Christmas – a critical trading period for our sector.”

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.”

The group claimed that rising costs and supply chain issues have disrupted alcohol deliveries, with imports taking up to five times longer than a year ago.

Bosses warned that the cost of freight had jumped by around 7 per cent to retain drivers, and delays at ports were hampering efforts for shipments to arrive quickly.

Drivers and vehicles were also “increasingly unpredictable” in their arrival times, with some goods not ready or left waiting for collection.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the association, said: “There is mounting concern amongst our membership that unless urgent action is taken, we will fall deeper into delivery chaos.

“Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond.”

To combat winter disruption, the group is urging ministers to extend the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers beyond the end of February next year for a minimum one-year period. They claim this will “ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers”.

Boris Johnson has spoken of his reluctance to issue visas to foreign workers to help businesses, insisting he wants the UK to transition into a “low wage, high skill” economy.

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