Future food shortages at supermarkets could be 'inevitable' according to industry experts.

It has been claimed staff shortages across low-paying sectors including harvesting, manufacturing, and in particular a chronic lack of drivers, would mean less food on the shelves.

Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation told the Guardian: "The real crisis for food supplies starts now."

He said that while he was typically wary of empty shelf warnings, “this time definitely feels different”.

The start of lockdown saw many stores and supermarkets struggling to fill shelves as a combination of stockpiling and more people staying at home unbalanced the finely-tuned logistics big businesses rely on.

Combined with a shortage in staff for the meat industry and the fruit packaging industry as well as pubs and restaurants starting to reopen, many are concerned about the future.

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Brennan added: “Everywhere you look in a supply chain there are problems.

“Food already isn’t being replenished into supermarkets quick enough and it’s not just because of logistics but a lack of production.”

It comes as a major distributor warned fresh produce destined for UK supermarkets is being dumped due to a shortage of drivers.

The “acute shortage” of HGV (heavy goods vehicle) drivers is behind “perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in cold stores, waiting for wheels to go under it”, Nationwide Produce managing director Tim O’Malley said.

Mr O’Malley told the Fresh Produce Journal that the shortage was leading to supermarket shelves and restaurant plates going empty, describing it as a “crisis of national importance”.

He told the journal: “In all my years in fresh produce I’ve never seen anything like this. For example, we supply one of the largest restaurant chains in the UK. It goes without saying how much they’ve suffered throughout the pandemic. However, business is booming for them at the moment.

“On Sunday, our guy who handles their account received a call from our haulier at 1pm to say that due to a shortage of lorry drivers, they cannot deliver anything to any of the depots for our restaurant customer that evening.

“We reminded them that all the goods were graded and packed and ready to go. They said they simply could not deliver due to a lack of drivers. After hours of begging and pleading we managed to get them to deliver to one of the eight depots.”

The driver shortage is believed to be caused by numerous factors, including European workers returning home due to Brexit and Covid, a lack of workers with Visas and the ending of the furlough scheme.