UK shops still running short on painkillers and crisps amid global supply crunch

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According to official figures, shoppers may still struggle to get hold of the crunchy in UK supermarkets.

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Survey data collected by Kantar Public and shared with the Office for National Statistics found that some shops were still running low on supplies of crisps.

Yet when the data was collected between November 19 and 22, multipacks were still lacking, with 24 percent of stores having little or nothing, but that’s down somewhat from last week’s 30 percent.


Earlier this month an IT glitch that disrupted production at Walkers, Britain’s biggest crisps maker, led to a sharp drop in production levels. Manufacturers warned at the time that it could take weeks for production to return to normal levels.

More troubling, however, is the continuing shortage of over-the-counter pain relievers – paracetamol and ibuprofen. Between 19 and 22 November, one in five stores had little or no stock of paracetamol.

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The ONS, part of a routine examination on how the economy has performed during the pandemic, helps paint a picture of consumer experiences during the global supply chain crisis and the partial disruption of EU-UK trade.

The shortage report is set against a backdrop of rising costs for consumers, with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reporting the largest increase in selling prices since 1990 to November.

The CBI said data from its members indicated that prices would continue on an upward trend next month, adding to the pressure on the wallets of Christmas shoppers as inflation overtook wage hikes.

The data painted a relatively positive picture for retailers, suggesting that sales were relatively strong for the time of year. Some economists were wary of whether it would prove to be permanent, although the measure was also affected year-on-year by Covid-19 restrictions last year.

“However, these positive signs reflect the potential for consumers to step up their Christmas shopping in the face of warnings on potential shortages, rather than a pick-up in underlying demand,” said Gabriella Dickens, UK senior economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

This can be afforded by separate ONS/Kantar data showing that more than one in 10 stores were out of fresh pork, frozen turkey and sparking water.

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) said ONS figures are reporting serious delays in importing products for up to five times the normal time.

The industry is battling against global economic disruption caused by the pandemic, and heavy freight driver shortages.

In March this year, India, one of the world’s largest suppliers of generic drugs, imposed limits on exports amid rising levels of coronavirus cases. Industry experts said many inputs for these drugs, which are often sourced in China, were also in short supply for Indian importers.

Shortages from packaging to raw materials and limits on freight capacity have all created a supply chain crisis for drugs.

The problem isn’t going away as fast as some industry experts had originally hoped, however – several global trade studies suggest that shipping costs and other triggers of supply chain disruption will last well into next year.

Overall, of the items surveyed, about 10 percent of the stores were missing or short on these items, which are “broadly similar” to previous measurements, the ONS said, suggesting that general shortages are poor. had not happened.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that the economy is avoiding price increases from shortages for a range of industry inputs. Inflation will peak at 5 percent in April 2022, the Bank of England has warned.


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