Not a dry Christmas! Alcohol in good supply ahead of festive holiday

Budget 2021: Sunak announces changes to alcohol duties

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The ONS said beer, fresh vegetables and toilet rolls – targeted for stockpiling by shoppers in the run-up to the first national lockdown in March last year – were among the products widely available. However, not all products will be available, as shortages in other areas are feared.

Frozen turkeys were the product most likely to be in short supply in UK supermarkets earlier this month, according to industry data released amid warnings of a possible Christmas supply squeeze.

A shortage of skilled butchers has been widely blamed by the industry in recent months for a growing risk to meat supplies over the festive season.

It has prompted a rush among shoppers to bag a bird from the frozen section.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics covering shelf availability of products between Friday 5 November and Monday 8th showed 18 percent of frozen turkeys either were not available or stock was low.

Other items that are proving tougher to find include sparkling water amid the squeeze on C02, painkillers such as ibuprofen as winter ailments rise and fresh pork, the industry data suggested.

The latter product is also subject to the lack of butchers – a consequence of many workers from Europe returning home during the COVID crisis and Brexit immigration rules though the government has since relaxed the curbs.

However, the climb-down, which was demanded by the industry, came too late to prevent the slaughter of 6,000 pigs due to the butcher shortage.

Availability is being driven by the ability of producers to steer clear of the wider global supply chain disruption and record labour shortage that is being seen across the economy from factories to warehousing operations and especially haulage.

The British Meat Processors Association warned last month that turkeys would likely have to be shipped in from the EU ahead of the festive period.

It also saw a threat to the availability of foods like pigs in blankets.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the figures: “‘It seems Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey on the table, as the birds are flying out of the deep freeze, faster than supermarkets can stock up again.”

She added: “The latest snapshot of our shopping habits from the ONS shows that the meat was the item most often recorded as being in short supply in supermarkets up and down the UK over the last week.

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Warning of stockpiling by shoppers, the expert ended: “As concerns mounted that meat processing plants were facing a shortage of workers, consumers have taken warnings to heart about the potential for a big gap on the festive menu, and many have been stocking up many weeks before the big day.”

With staff shortages being blamed for the logistical and retail side of things, some companies have created financial incentives for new staff.

Some of Britain’s employers are offering bonuses of up to £2,000 to recruit Christmas workers amid fears over staff shortages disrupting the festive season.

Research from the jobs website Adzuna showed there are currently 26,307 seasonal job vacancies ahead of the pivotal Christmas shopping period, almost double the 13,668 at the same point a year ago.

Adzuna said there were more than 1,300 job openings advertising a Christmas bonus, including rewards of up to £2,000 for Amazon seasonal warehouse workers, bonuses of £1,000 for DPD warehouse night sorters, and payments of £500 for new recruits at Ocado, and Hand Picked Hotels.

It said that Tesco was looking for the most seasonal staff, with 871 job vacancies still open across the UK out of a total of 30,000 additional temporary positions at the retailer this winter.

Delivery company Hermes still has 740 vacancies, and Royal Mail 200, to handle deliveries after a boom in online shopping during the pandemic.

With shortages of lorry drivers and warehouse staff causing shortages on the high street ahead of the festive season, the figures come amid concerns over potential disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

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