A LACK of workers at supermarkets and farms could lead to food shortages, a trade expert has warned.

University of Sussex economics reader Peter Holmes said worker shortages will be the biggest constraint on the UK’s food supply.

But he also warned increased demand at supermarkets caused by the closure of workplaces and restaurants will put pressure on producers.


“There are a number of things which could cause food shortages,” said Mr Holmes, of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, pictured.

“There’s clearly a shortage of labour in certain places.

“But another thing which I think is quite important is the change in people’s habits.

“Previously they were eating in work canteens or going out to restaurants and cafes.

“Now they’re needing to get more from the supermarket than they were before.

“That does require the supermarkets to have a significantly greater throughput with the same premises and in some cases less staff.

“The demand is shifting. If more people start buying certain foods more, that could cause shortages.”

“If there is panic buying, that should subside.

“But the long-term pressure on the supply chain won’t.”

Mr Holmes said a lack of workers will be the food industry’s biggest challenge as the pandemic develops.

“If there aren’t enough staff in the supermarkets to stack shelves then that will be a bottleneck,” he said.

“There could be a shortage of growers, and with the coronavirus it will only get worse.

“Coronavirus does create some real problems in the supply side.”

The trade expert’s comments come as Environment Secretary George Eustice urged those left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic to seek work on farms instead.

Recruitment firms such as Brighton-based Concordia have set up a website for those interested in working in agriculture.

Visit hopslaboursolutions.co.uk/seasonal-work to put in an application.

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. org.uk/apply. To donate visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/sussexcrisisfund