Shoppers' frustration at store shortages

Sainsbury's supermarket at Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Sainsbury's supermarket at Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

An absence of truck drivers has led to a shortage of supplies in our stores and supermarkets.

A double whammy of a backlog of HGV tests caused by Covid and foreign drivers returning home because of Brexit has caused supply problems.

At about 1.30pm on Wednesday the Sainsbury's store in St Nicholas Road was busy with shoppers.

A scan of the shelves for groceries showed empty gaps where iceberg lettuce, sweet potato fries and little gem lettuce should have been, with signs up saying “Temporarily out of stock”.

Our audit also shows cushions and bedding were missing from shelves and they were large gaps where washing up liquid was supposed to be and the shelf for Sainsbury’s cream crackers at 39p was bereft of any items.

Perhaps the largest gap on the shelves was for various fruit juice cartons.

A sign to customers in the fruit juice section said: “Some of our products are temporarily out of stock. We’re working hard to get back into shelves as quickly as possible. Thank you.”

Outside the store was frustrated shopper was a 79-year-old woman who was finding it hard to purchase her favourites treats – Walkers-branded salted crinkly crisps.

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She said:  “I just can’t get them anywhere. It seems everywhere has run out of them.”

Other items she found hard to find were cushions, chicken for dinner and getting enough Marmite rice cakes.

She said: “It is hard to find things and it not just food items, it is other lines such as cushions.

“I suppose with what happened we did expect they will be shortages of this and that.”

Russian national Yury Garshin was shopping with his 85-year-old mother Galina, who lives in the town.

Yury Garshin

Yury Garshin with his mother Galina outside the Sainsbury's store - Credit: archant

They were frustrated not to find any Volvic water.

Mr Garshin said the problem of supplies was “100,000 drivers leaving the country” due to Brexit.

He added: “You are missing people because of Brexit and they won’t come back to England.

On the afternoon of Thursday in the town’s Asda store there was no Fairy liquid at all, with a sign saying “Sorry temporarily out of stock”.

Asda supermarket at Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Asda supermarket at Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

There was also a shortage of Asda brand washing power and spring water and also Pampers products. 

While food shortages are worrying supermarket shoppers, Norfolk's fully-stocked farm shops said they are ready to fill any gaps.

But it is the opposite problem of surpluses which many of the region's farms are grappling with.

A post-Brexit exodus of migrant workers, exacerbated by Covid-19 factors, has been blamed for the shortage of meat processing staff which has created a costly backlog of thousands of pigs on the region’s farms.

Meanwhile fruit and veg growers are struggling to find enough people to pick and pack their crops.

But while national supply chains struggle, farmers have urged shoppers to seek out the local, low-food-miles offerings from farm shops and online delivery schemes.

Hirst’s Farm Shop at Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, opened an expanded shop and cafe building earlier this year.

Robert Hirst, who runs the shop with his wife Becca, said: “When it comes to essentials, our bread and butter, meat, vegetables and fish, it is such a small supply chain and we don't have a shortage in any of these areas.

Robert and Becca Hirst in their expanded farm shop and cafe at Ormesby St Margaret

Robert and Becca Hirst in their expanded farm shop and cafe at Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

"The shelves are full.”

But Mr Hirst said the jobs crisis in the supply chain is a concern for the family's livestock enterprise, which is due to finish its next five-month batch of 1,999 pigs in the next two weeks.

“We are still a couple of weeks away from the next batch being ready, and we will be loading out over five or six weeks,” he said.

“So by the time that eight weeks is over we need the government to have made
some changes – if not it is going to be devastating for the industry.”

Ministers have been urged to introduce a 12-month “Covid-19 Recovery Visa” to fill an estimated 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses.