Drive to keep stocked up

I haven’t seen empty shelves in supermarkets near me but have noticed it can be a little harder to find one or two things and I do remember the panic buying and lack of items like toilet paper at the start of the first lockdown.

Like many people, I’ve been struck by warnings about food shortages and shocked to hear one of the country’s biggest food manufacturers say this could be our worst period since 1947.

Some claim it’s down to the ‘pingdemic’ problem, where perfectly healthy people are being expected to self-isolate because the government phone app suggests they might have been in contact with a person infected with coronavirus.

Others suggest it’s a combination of a long-predicted shortage of drivers made worse by our departure from the EU.

The hauliers, who carry our food supplies, are now classed as critical workers and as such can be exempt from self-isolating if able to prove they don’t have the virus.

Their union (URTU) claims, however, that the process is far too lengthy and bureaucratic and, in some cases, can take longer than the 10-day isolation period.

Industry chiefs have previously alerted the PM to a potential shortage of up to a 100,000 HGV drivers and called for urgent intervention and measures to allow drivers from the EU to be issued with special visas, the same kind of thing needed for fruit and vegetable pickers and those who work in food processing centres, but progress is slow.

The government has also begun a consultation on whether to combine the separate driving tests for articulated and rigid lorries which could result in more home-grown drivers but it’s unlikely to have any impact soon. The driver shortage is already leading to tonnes of perfectly edible food being destroyed every week.

Governments face lots of criticisms for things that are often not their fault but if the Government isn’t responsible for ensuring we have enough supplies of food in the shops, who else could be?

After all the country’s been through, this isn’t an issue where ministers can be allowed to fall asleep at the wheel.

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