Wine and spirits companies have written to the Government warning they are still struggling with supply as prices soar and shipments are delayed in ports.
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Drinkers celebrating the festive season could be left sorely disappointed as supplies could drop over a lack of HGV drivers, alcohol companies have warned.
The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps telling him companies are still struggling to get drinks to customers and urged ministers to “ease the burden”, or face Christmas dinner tables being empty of booze.
The news comes after Downing Street admitted there will be “challenges” with getting the full range of Christmas presents under trees this winter.
In the letter, signed by major brands including Moet Hennessy, Pernod Ricard and Campari, they wrote: “Businesses are still struggling, and further action is needed, particularly now in the run up to Christmas – a critical trading period for our sector.”
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It added: “This is an urgent issue for our businesses, and it is imperative that Government takes immediate steps to help mitigate the impact of the driver shortages crisis before the Christmas period.”
They have warned that the costing of freight has soared by 7% to retain drivers, and further delays in ports have been delaying deliveries.
They added: “Drivers and vehicles are increasingly unpredictable in their arrival times, meaning goods are either not ready or are left waiting for collection.
“As a particularly competitive industry, the inability to fulfil orders in a timely manner can result in the loss of business, as products can be easily replaced by comparable products from elsewhere in the world. This is distinctly true for supplying goods to Northern Ireland.
“While businesses are doing their best and being as flexible as they can, this loss of certainty and predictability is hugely damaging for their supply chain and ultimately their bottom line, consumers and tax revenue.
“There is only so much businesses can do without having to increase costs for consumers.”
The group is calling on the Government to urgently extend the temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers beyond the end of February next year for a minimum one-year period to “ease the burden on industry and allow for a sufficient increase in domestic drivers”.
They also want better routing for freights at ports and more regular updates from the DVLA on HGV driving tests and licences, after a huge backlog built up over lockdown periods during the pandemic.