Food shortages are ‘weeks’ away, warns RHA boss

The government has been accused of “burying its head in the sand” after warnings of gaps on supermarket shelves by mid-August.

Road Haulage Association (RHA) head Richard Burnett claimed the shortfall of delivery drivers had been compounded by the numbers self-isolating during the “pingdemic”.

Ministers announced plans last week to create 700 new Covid-19 testing centres, which would allow staff to take daily checks rather than quarantining for 10 days.

However, Burnett argued they were not “recognising the seriousness” of the problem.

READ MORE: Government’s decarbonising plan ‘unrealistic’, warns RHA

“We already have a shortage of around 100,000 HGV drivers and the pingdemic is just exacerbating the problem,” he said on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House.

“In the next two to three weeks we are facing a collapse of the supply chain, meaning even bigger gaps on supermarket shelves.

“This is a crisis on a scale we have never seen before in this industry and the government is burying its head in the sand.”

Industry figures had blamed ministers for turning a blind eye to driver shortfalls even before the pingdemic.

At a meeting to discuss the issue in May, transport minister Charlotte Vere reportedly accused the sector of “crying wolf”.

Last week, supermarkets urged shoppers not to panic-buy as photos of bare shelves emerged on social media.

Although they admitted supplies were “patchy”, retailers said the shortages were temporary while they waited for deliveries.

“While we might not always have the exact product a customer is looking for in every store, large quantities of products are being delivered to stores daily,” a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker claimed there was “no problem with supply of stock”.

However, he warned that the number of self-isolating staff had forced stores to close for the first time in the company’s history.

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