Citing a perfect storm of factors - and notably emphasizing hiring and labor shortages - Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation, said in a statement: “The return to growth in exports to non-EU markets is welcome news, but it doesn’t make up for the disastrous loss of £2bn in sales to the EU. It clearly demonstrates the serious difficulties manufacturers in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support.”
He detailed the challenges facing producers and suppliers in finding staff as a key disruption to the supply chain.
"We are seeing labour shortages across the UK’s farm-to-fork food and drink supply chain, resulting in empty spaces on UK shop shelves, disruptions to deliveries and decreased production.” He warned: “Unless steps are taken to address these issues, the ability of businesses to fulfil vital export orders will be impacted.”
Sales of UK food and drink to non-EU countries were up 13 percent, accounting for 46.6 percent (£4.3bn) of all UK food and drink exports in the first half of 2021, driven by a return to growth in China, Singapore, Australia, Japan and the Gulf region. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) increase means non-EU exports are now almost back to pre-Covid levels. However, the decline in exports to the EU is so severe that it overwhelms these more positive numbers.
John Whitehead, director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association, said: “There is growing evidence that the complexity of trading with the EU has led to businesses moving operations into Europe and of importers looking for alternative suppliers, contributing to the ongoing decline in both UK exports and UK jobs.”
Lack of Drivers Impacting Movement of Goods to the EU
The industries problems reflects a broader issue with the UK's supply chain: a sharp rise in driver vacancies. While there has been, according to the Road Haulage Association, a shortage of drivers long before the pandemic hit, he events of the past 18 months have exacerbated the problem. Now, the RHA claims there is a shortage of 100,000 drivers in the UK, with the body claiming that many EU-based drivers have decided not to work in the UK as a result of the complications brought about by Brexit. According to a June letter from the RHA to the Prime Minster's office there are several factors impacting the labor shortage and recruiting:
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