Shoppers should not panic ahead of Christmas, as it will make the crisis worse, ministers warned today.
A severe shortage of delivery drivers has seen staple products disappear from supermarket shelves in recent weeks.
Worried Brits have reacted by filling their trolleys with key supplies – leaving fellow shoppers with thin pickings in some aisles.
Cabinet Minister Steven Barkley warned today that such frantic stockpiling risks looming large, as was the case with petrol in the forecourt.
Asked whether he echoed the warnings of industry chiefs against stockpiling, he said: “Me and I think people should remember the start of the pandemic when our supply chains came under enormous stress and they’ve put the UK’s economy under pressure.” Saw the resilience of the retail sector.”
The initial days of the lockdown saw a mad scramble for essentials like toilet rolls.
Mr Barclay said the reduction at petrol stations was “driven by consumer feedback” rather than fuel shortages.
To help address a delivery driver shortage, the government has eased visa rules for 5,000 foreign workers and called in troops to get behind the wheel.
price is tight
It comes as shoppers face higher food costs during the festive period after a major carbon dioxide supplier prepared to increase prices.
Trade Secretary Quasi Quarteng yesterday brokered a deal for Britain’s biggest CO2 producer to charge customers more so as not to endear taxpayers with another huge bailout bill.
It guaranteed fizz in our pints and steak on the table by January, following fears that the Teesside plant would have to close due to rising gas prices.
But foodie owners warn it will mean higher trolley bills as manufacturers pass the increased cost on to consumers.
Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation welcomed the deal but said: “It will certainly put more pressure on prices for shoppers and eaters.”
The British Retail Consortium said a survey of its members found that three out of five expected prices to rise.
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability, said: “We welcome a deal to ensure that CO2 supplies are protected until after Christmas.
“However, this is yet another example of cost pressures in the supply chain, along with rising transportation costs, high energy and commodity prices, and ongoing labor shortages.”
Government sources said the decision to hike food prices rests with the companies.
Ministers pumped tens of millions in CF fertilizers last month in a three-week bailout deal to restart a stalled factory in Billingham.
The US-owned plant was forced to halt production due to falling gas prices, making business unprofitable.
Today’s deal means the government will no longer pursue it and customers will instead pay an undisclosed amount for the CO2.
Mr Quarteng said: “Today’s agreement means that critical industries can rely on the supply of CO2 in the coming months without taxpayer support.”
The government acted swiftly to provide CF fertilizers with the support they needed to begin production, and gave us enough breathing room to agree on a longer-term, more sustainable solution.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “CO2 is critical to our food and beverage sectors.
“The government has taken decisive action in these extraordinary circumstances to allow a deal that will continue to supply CO2 to businesses – including thousands of food and beverage businesses – up and down the country.”
Baked beans and ketchup titan Heinz became the latest firm to warn of a price hike yesterday because of increased delivery costs due to rising inflation.
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