Food products that could be affected by shortages
Industry insiders warned that there are several products most at risk of shortages.
This is because these products are typically imported from the Continent at this time of year.
- Salad leaves, including lettuces
- Citrus fruit
- Fresh soft fruit, like strawberries ans raspberries
Shellfish suppliers also warned their products could be in short supply.
They said the perishable products were stranded as the French border closed.
Hauliers must be allowed to cross into France from the Port of Dover today as Britain will see shortages on supermarket shelves if the situation if not resolved, experts have warned.
‘Timing is crucial’ with the backlog of lorries stuck at Dover, say industry insiders.
The warnings come from the British Retail Consortium, the trade association for UK retailers, who have reassured the British public that there is enough food available for Christmas.
All the ingredients and produce needed for a traditional Christmas dinner are already in the country and available to consumers, they said.
But if empty lorries are not allowed into France to restock, there will be shortages of fresh produce, with supplies of salad, vegetable and fresh fruit most risk as they are typically imported from the continent a this time of year.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Just to be clear, there’s certainly not a problem for Christmas.
‘There’s plenty of food in the supply chain and in the stores at the moment, so nobody needs to be worried about food for Christmas dinners – there’s plenty of food for everybody and we can all shop normally.
‘But there is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we’re talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time.
‘The timing is absolutely crucial. This needs to be resolved. The borders really need to be running pretty much freely from tomorrow to assure us that there won’t be any disruption.
‘Just to give you an example, 90 per cent of our lettuces and about 70 per cent of our soft fruit at this time of year is coming in through those Channel ports.
‘Those ports operate multiple crossings every day, these are perishable products, you can’t put them in a container and bring them to another port, they need to be driven up from Spain.
Shoppers at a Sainsbury’s store in London were seen filling their trollies with the Christmas grocery essentials on Tuesday morning
The supermarket queues grew down the pavement at this Waitrose store in London on Tuesday morning amid fears of shortages
Long lines of shoppers formed outside this M&S Foodhall in North Tyneside this morning from before sunrise
Queues began at supermarkets early this morning for a second day in a row after people began waiting from 5.50am yesterday morning
The queues at this Cambridge supermarket were already snaking around the car park before sunrise this morning
A huge long queue stretches around the Silverlink Retail Park in North Tyneside this morning as Christmas shoppers wait in line at 7am for the M&S food hall to open
The early morning queues were similar to scenes from yesterday where shoppers waited in line outside one supermarket from 5.50am
There are concerns of shortages of fresh produce after Christmas day if the situation at Dover is not resolved today, experts said
The shelves were already emptied of some fresh produce at the Tesco Local store in Wandsworth, London, this morning
‘They’ve got a very short shelf life on them, there is no alternative to coming through Dover or Folkestone, and that’s why we need those ports and on the other side of the Channel to be operating freely.’
Number 10 yesterday called for calm as panic-buyers formed long queues outside supermarkets. People were instead urged to ‘shop normally’ for all their festive staples after the French government pledged to ‘resume movement’ as soon as possible after a coronavirus travel ban plunged the country into chaos.
The Port of Dover confirmed yesterday inbound lorries are coming into the UK, but queues of lorries waiting to get to France from the key British port stretched for more than 20 miles after the French announced a temporary 48 hour travel ban.
France closed their borders to UK travellers from 11pm on Sunday night as large swathes of the country went into Tier 4 lockdown after the mutant Covid strain spread across parts of London and the south east.
Countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria also announced restrictions on UK travel following the outbreak of the new strain across South East England.
Countries reacted after Mr Johnson announced on Saturday that the new variant was up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain as he put London and parts of the South East and East of England into a two-week Christmas lockdown, with nearly 18 million people in a new Tier 4.
The travel ban is set to be lifted at 11pm tonight, but it could be lifted earlier if negotiations between France and England reach conclusions.
Crisis talks are ongoing after France said they would only accept hauliers into the country if they had a negative Covid test. But a row erupted over where testing would take place.
Industry bosses initially warned France‘s coronavirus ban on British lorries could stop hauliers bringing in vital festive food supplies prompting shoppers to empty the supermarket shelves yesterday, with queues of panic-buyers beginning from 5.50am.
This Waitrose store in London also had long queues forming on Tuesday morning as people tried to buy their groceries before Christmas
Industry experts urged people not to panic buy and said there is enough produce in the country for people’s Christmas dinner
The tills were busy at this London Sainsbury’s store on Tuesday morning as people waited to pay for their shopping
News that hauliers carrying essential items were still being allowed to cross from France to the UK took a long time to reach people at the tills, and panic buying continued for much of yesterday.
Long queues were seen again this morning with lines forming from 5.30am onwards. The Marks & Spencer Food Hall at the Silverlink Retail Park in North Tyneside saw queues snaking around the car park.
Explaining the current situation in Dover, Mr Opie said: ‘The problem actually is empty lorries. So the empty lorries now stuck in Kent, they need to get back to places like Spain to pick up the next consignment of raspberries and strawberries, and they need to get back in the next day or so or we will see disruption.
‘Our view is as long as it can be cleared up today, there’ll be minimal impact for consumers. Remember the shops are shut on Christmas Day, which takes one day of buying out of the equation, but those lorries that are stuck in Kent, they do need to get back within the next day.
‘The other thing to mention is whatever is agreed, we need to be careful is doesn’t add too much friction to the supply chain, which in itself causes disruption by causing delays to the drivers whilst they’re being tested.’
He added: ‘We always thought there would be queues. You need to remember these are the busiest days for shopping, the next couple of days ahead of Christmas, anyway.
‘And remember all the stores are still operating all of their Covid protocols which means you can’t get as many people into a supermarket as you would do normally.
‘So I’m afraid we always had seen that queues had been an inevitability. We’re not seeing the sort of excessive buying in any kind of volumes that we saw around that period in mid-March, so people should just remember the stores are open for longer to try and get everybody in, but Covid protocols mean we can’t get as many people in the supermarkets, so I’m afraid there may be a small amount of queuing involved.’
A shopper in Ashford, Kent, is spotted with very full trolley just days before Christmas as people rush to the shops for festive supplies
Chaotic scenes at Asda in Wandsworth, South West London as a huge rush of shoppers descended on the store causing long queues in the aisles. One man at the front of the queue appeared to be resting his eyes as he had been waiting so long
Shoppers look at empty shelves in the fruit and veg aisles at Asda in London this afternoon. Industry insiders warned that there are several products most at risk of shortages
A last turkey is seen on a shelf as people shop at a Sainsbury’s store in London, which is now in Tier 4 lockdown
This elderly couple at a Tesco store in east London look at the empty shelves this morning after many headed to the shops to stock up for Christmas
Long queues outside the Asda at Clapham Junction in South West London as people try to get Christmas shopping
Crowds of shoppers were seen in a Tesco Extra store in south east London today as people flocked to supermarkets days before Christmas
The shelves were emotied of fresh stock as large numbers of shoppers descended on supermarkets this morning amid news of a French travel ban. The Port of Dover has confirmed lorries carrying essential items are now inbound from France
A spokesperson for number 10 said Britain’s supply chains are ‘diverse and resilient’ and urged people yesterday not to react unnecessarily by emptying supermarket shelves.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said: ‘We have resilient supply chains and… it is the case that the majority of our food doesn’t come in through the short straits.
‘People should shop normally and continue to be considerate in the way they shop.’
Items most at risk of shortages include salad leaves, citrus fruit, broccoli and cauliflowers, which are typically imported from the Continent at this time of year, industry experts said.
There were also concerns perishable goods could be left rotting in waiting trucks as the border chaos led to further lorry queues.
Shoppers outside Asda at Clapham Junction in South West London today as they pick up food for Christmas
People queue to get inside a Marks and Spencer branch in North London for their Christmas food shopping this afternoon
Long queues outside Asda at Clapham Junction in South West London today, with just four days to go until Christmas
People queue outside a Post Office in North London this afternoon as they send some last-minute packages
This shopper began queueing outside a supermarket which already had a line of people waiting at 5.50am today
Long lines started forming outside of this Waitrose superstore in Henleaze near Brisol this morning as people tried to stock up on festive supplies. This image was posted on Twitter with the caption: ‘And so this is Christmas, in the queue for a turkey’
Sainsbury’s warned that some products could be missing from shelves if restrictions at ports continued, but said food for a traditional Christmas lunch is already in the country.
A spokesperson for the supermarket giant said: ‘All products for the Great British Christmas lunch are already in the country and we have plenty of these.
‘We are also sourcing everything we can from the UK and looking into alternative transport for product sourced from Europe.
‘If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.
‘We hope the UK and French governments can come to a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports.’
Shellfish producers in Scotland also said they had tonnes of perishable products stranded on roads as the French border was closed. Disruption in Britain will also snarl supplies to Ireland.
Warnings of supermarket shortages also comes amid fears that a Brexit deal will not be reached before the end of the year, causing Britain to crash out of the EU.
People braved the rain at the Waitrose store in Henleaze at 7.37am to wait in line and do their shopping earlier than normal before Christmas Day
Shoppers in Sainsbury’s supermarket in north London before 8am, buying festive groceries, just four days before Christmas day amid a French ban on British hauliers
The shelves at this Sainsbury’s store were looking stark yesterday morning as long lines of shoppers began queuing at supermarkets across the UK amid fears the French travel ban could limit food supply chains
Yesterday morning shoppers in north London were seen waiting for their turn to go shopping as long queues grew as the hours went by
Supermarkets Aldi and Waitrose also had queues of shoppers yesterday, with people posting pictures on social media of the chaos
This person in the south east also saw long supermarket queues yesterday after the Tier 4 Covid restrictions came into force across large swathes of the UK on Saturday night
Some supermarket shoppers are reporting seeing queues and empty shelves similar to those from the start of the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown.
Ameera Patel queued for 40 minutes in the rain outside her local Waitrose in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, on Monday morning.
‘(It’s) something I haven’t seen since March, April time,’ the 40-year-old trainee financial adviser told PA yesterday.
Ms Patel said shelves were well stocked overall, except for on the toilet roll aisle, where some were empty. ‘The atmosphere was fine inside the store, busy festive time … there didn’t appear to be a worried feel,’ she added.
Dan Forshaw, 39, said there were queues and a number of empty meat and vegetable shelves in his local Waitrose in Cambridge.
‘It was quite shocking given it was only 10.30am … I’ve shopped at that Waitrose for over six years and it’s the first time I’ve seen it like this around Christmas,’ the musician told PA.
‘It wasn’t too bad doing this in the spring but now it’s wet, cold and whilst the staff were incredibly helpful, I’m worried I won’t have everything for our family this Christmas.’
French borders were closed yesterday morning after a 48 hour travel ban came into force at 11pm last night as a mutant strain of the covid virus spreads across south east England
Signs to ‘stay at home’ were broadcast to drivers on the M27 motorway near Portsmouth in Hampshire, which was plunged into Tier 4 on Saturday night
Giant queues formed at the Costco store in Trafford, Manchester this morning amid worries of food supply shortages before Christmas
The Asda store on London’s Old Kent Road was also busy today as shoppers queued for the tills to pay for their shopping
Several supermarkets in Liverpool, Merseyside, are busy today, with shoppers pictured here in the city’s Tesco store
The Morrisons store in Liverpool is also seeing stocks reduced by the large numbers of shoppers coming through their doors
Shelves were emptying fast in an Iceland store in north London this morning as shoppers rushed to buy festive groceries
Staple items like bread were in short supply at this Iceland supermarket in north London this morning
There was a rush of shoppers pre-8am this morning at this Sainsbury’s store in north London with packed trollies seen at the tills
The Tesco store in Cirencester was busy this morning as people formed long lines to do their Christmas food shop
Shoppers were seen picking up turkeys for their Christmas dinner at this Asda store in London on Old Kent Road
The shelves were emptied of certain canned goods at this Asda store on Old Kent Road, in south London, after the capital was plunged into Tier 4
People were seen in masks as they waited in line outside the Tesco store in Cirencester this morning
Fresh produce was in popular demand with shoppers today as many stocked up on groceries ahead of Christmas
People patiently waited in socially distanced queues at this Waitrose store today amid fears of shortages of some products
‘In the supermarket queue at 5.50 to get my hands on blockade/Brexit bog roll’, one shopper posted on Twitter alongside a picture of a line of people already queueing.
Another posted a picture from a Waitrose store in Henleaze, south west England, which showed long lines of people snaking around the car park in the rain. They captioned it with: ‘And so this is Christmas, in the queue for a turkey.’
Others said the queues at their local supermarket were the worst they had seen in months.
The Aldi supermarket in Burpham, Guildford, had long lines outside an hour before it’s opened its doors.
Shopper Lucy Smith, 27, said : ‘When the doors opened there was a long queue People had got up so early, obviously fearing they might not get any food for Christmas.
‘We all went in and I saw a few people grabbing Yorkshire puddings from other peoples trollies. ‘I managed to get a pack of four Yorkshire puddings. But as I made my way through the store, somebody just took them out of my trolley.
The chaotic scenes this morning included shoppers fighting over Yorkshire puddings at an Aldi store in Burpham, near Guildford, according to shopper Lucy Smith, 27
Stocks of loo roll were in short supply this morning, echoing scenes from earlier in the pandemic when panic buyers stripped the shelves of toilet tissue
Washing powers and products also appeared to be popular products with shoppers who flocked to the shops this morning
A staff member outside a Morrisons supermarket in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, dressed as Santa
People were seen stocking up on parsnips at Tesco Cash and Carry in Cambridge on Monday morning as the supermarkets told customers not to panic buy
Supermarkets warned that lettuce was among the products that would be at risk of shortage if the border with France remained closed, as lettuce and salad is typically imported from the Continent at this time of year
‘People were actually arguing with each other over them. It’s absolute madness. And I thought that things were bad enough without this nonsense.’
The British Retail Consortium previously urged shoppers not to ‘clear out’ the shelves amid concerns over a no deal Brexit.
Earlier this month they said retailers are ‘increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products so there will be sufficient supply of essential products’.
They hopes to avoid a repeat of scenes seen earlier in the pandemic, when panic buying led to empty supermarket shelves and restrictions on key items. Supermarkets previously limited the sale of key items such as toilet roll, and staples such as rice, flour and pasta.
But a French travel ban will lead to shortages if ‘nothing changes’, the industry experts said.
The Port of Dover closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK for the next 48 hours after France imposed an inbound travel ban. Pictured: Lorries queue on the M20 in Folkestone
One person on social media, who says they are a truck driver, warned of a ‘humanitarian crisis’ approaching as the travel ban left many hauliers queuing at ports and along motorways across the UK
Opearation Stack was being implemented on the M20 in Kent last night – when parts of the motorway are set aside to park lorries queuing for Channel ports
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) earlier warned the closure of France to UK traffic would create ‘difficulties’ for UK imports and exports in the busy Christmas period.
Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability, said any ‘prolonged’ disruption would be a problem in the run-up to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
‘While goods can enter from France, few haulage firms will be willing to send trucks and drivers across to the UK without a guarantee they can return to the EU in a timely manner,’ he said.
‘This is a key supply route for fresh produce at this time of year.
‘We urge the UK Government and the EU to find a pragmatic solution to this as soon as possible, to prevent disruption for consumers. Retailers have stocked up on goods ahead of Christmas which should prevent immediate problems.
‘However, any prolonged closure of the French border would be a problem as the UK enters the final weeks before the transition ends on December 31.’
People stocked up on loo roll at the Tesco Cash and Carry in Cambridge on Monday as people flocked to the supermarkets
Liverpool’s Asda store saw its shelves depleted today as shoppers rushed to the supermarket for their Christmas shopping
These women left with a full shopping trolley after their festive groceries trip to the Asda store in Liverpool
Toilet roll and kitchen towel supplies were snapped up at the Liverpool superstore in Merseyside
Three key issues causing delays at British ports
Problems at ports are being caused by a series of problems occurring at once which are not all unique to the UK. Industry insiders say there are three key issues behind the chaos:
COVID – shipping container shortage
The system for shipping goods around the world stopped working properly when economies shut down and reopened at different times as they dealt with Covid.
This led to shipping firms falling behind when it came to retrieving empty containers from European ports and taking them back to factories in Asia.
The container shortage is being exacerbated by a lack of staff across the global supply chain – including sailors, hauliers and warehouse workers – due to people falling ill or having to quarantine.
The problems caused by Covid have been compounded by a surge in demand caused by:
BREXIT – customs and stockpiling
If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, then at the end of the transition period tariffs will be applied to imported goods according to World Trade Organisation rules.
Companies are therefore stockpiling goods out of fear of having to pay tariffs, or because they are concerned that new customs procedures after Brexit will delay imports.
There is always a spike in demand for goods around Christmas, which is exacerbating problems.
The Port of Dover is a key UK port and some 10,000 lorries a day travel through Dover, which accounts for 20 per cent of all goods brought and sold in UK.
Only lorries dropping off freight at the port before driving back out again were allowed through yesterday.
Hauliers coming to Britain from France will still be allowed in but there are fears that lorry drivers will not travel to avoid being ‘marooned’ in the UK.
The Irish government also imposed a 48-hour ban on flights from Britain and said ferries would be restricted to freight only.
The Port of Dover said in a statement: ‘Due to border restrictions in France access to the Ferry Terminal at the Port of Dover remains suspended to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice.
‘Accompanied freight and passenger customers are asked not to travel to the Port. Unaccompanied traffic continues to be allowed into France. All traffic into the UK is currently unaffected by those restrictions.’
But logistics companies urged people not to panic buy, saying that fresh produce will still be available.
Logistics UK, the business group representing the entire industry with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, said retailers will have taken steps to ensure there is no shortage of fresh produce.
The organisation’s general manager Alex Veitch said: ‘Shoppers should not panic buy – retailers will be making every effort to ensure there is stock within the system, including fresh produce, and it is important that we remember that inbound traffic still has access to the UK.
‘We are maintaining close contact with UK government to ensure that supplies of fresh produce are available throughout Christmas and the New Year.
‘Our advice to members is to check with ports before travelling, and keep in close contact with drivers to ensure their welfare is maintained.’
Operation Stack was being implemented on the M20 in Kent yesterday. The system means parts of the motorway are set aside to park lorries queuing for Channel ports. Kent airport, which is currently closed has also been put on standby to take 4,000 stranded HGVs.
People took shelter from the rain as they queued outside a Tesco store in Cardiff, South Wales
Queues formed outside Cardiff’s Marks and Spencers today as people rushed to the shops to do last minute Christmas shopping
Shoppers in the centre of Bristol, as people in Tier 2 areas of coronavirus restrictions continue with their Christmas preparations
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also urged travelers and hauliers to avoid Kent ports or other routes to France for fear of further carnage on the roads.
Road Haulage Association (RHA) boss Richard Burnett, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the government should bring forward their contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit in the New Year and use the measures to control the current travel ban chaos.
This included opening the truck parks in Kent, prepared to take high numbers of vehicles should there ever be a difficult post-Brexit transition period.
One person on social media, who claims he is a truck driver, posted on social media that he had been queueing in his lorry since Friday.
He warned of an impending ‘humanitarian crisis’ and said there were no toilets available for stranded truckers.
A 23 mile section of the motorway from Junction 8 near Maidstone and Junction 11 at Folkestone has been turned into a lorry park to avoid congestion in the Port of Dover and at the tunnel.
The Highways Agency said: ‘All drivers – including all hauliers – are being advised to avoid travelling to Kent ports until further notice as part of the coastbound M20 is being used to stack lorries due to cross channel travel restrictions.
‘As a result, Operation Stack has been activated between junctions 8 for Maidstone East and junction 11 for Westenhanger.
Operation Stack is where parts of the M20 are closed to queue lorries that are travelling towards the continent, to avoid causing gridlock across Kent’s road network.
‘The measures follow the French government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours, and the subsequent closures of the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel.
‘Highways England is working closely with the Department for Transport, Kent Resilience Forum, Kent Council and Kent Police to ensure contingency measures are urgently put in place to manage disruption.’
The newly introduced Tier 4 restictions mean all non essential shops and retailers will close in areas including London, Kent, Essex, Surrey- excluding Waverley – and Bedfordshire.
People queue outside a Waitrose supermarket in Harrow, London, with many wearing masks as they waited outside
The scenes in Harrow were similar to those witnessed at supermarkets across the UK, with long queues continuing throughout the day as people flocked to get their groceries
It came after the French announced a travel ban, but said they would attempt to reopen the border within hours after the closure caused chaos in the UK
Non-essential toys and video games were blocked off by cases of beer at the Asda store in Cardiff following the Welsh government lockdown announcement
Aisles of toys are unavailable for sale in an Asda supermarket in Wales as they are deemed a ‘non-essential’ item
The products have been blocked off to shoppers under the newly imposed Welsh coronavirus lockdown rules
Candles and other items in the shop were given labels telling consumers not to purchase them as they did their grocery shopping
The note said items deemed ‘non-essential’ under the ‘firebreak’ lockdown regulations would not be sold
Supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations remained on the Government’s permitted list – as do the less-obvious Christmas tree retailers, dry cleaners, archery and shooting ranges and outdoor riding centres.
The last minute annoucement gave Britons just eight hours to complete their gift shopping ahead of Christmas Day before the rules kicked in at midnight.
High streets and trains in Tier 4 regions were left deserted yesterday as all non-essential shops closed their doors. Tube stations were equally empty after travel out of the capital was restricted.
People in the highest band of restrictions also cannot mix indoors with anyone not from their household.
It came as Wales was also thrust into a full lockdown from midnight on Saturday – forcing all non-essential shops to close their doors and slashing Christmas bubbles to a single day. Non-essential toys and products were also blocked off by cases of beer at one supermarket in Cardiff.