A woman wearing a face mask pushes a shopping cart at a Tesco supermarket in Hatfield, Britain, in this October 6 2020 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA
A woman wearing a face mask pushes a shopping cart at a Tesco supermarket in Hatfield, Britain, in this October 6 2020 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA

London — Britain said on Wednesday that people should buy normally for Christmas and there would be no shortage of gifts, after shipping containers carrying toys and electrical goods were diverted from the country’s biggest port because it was full.

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, has diverted some vessels from Felixstowe port in eastern England because a lack of truck drivers means there is nowhere left to stack containers.

“I’m confident that people will be able to get their toys for Christmas,” said Conservative Party co-chair Oliver Dowden. He said he was sure Christmas gifts would be delivered this year.

Dowden, a cabinet minister without portfolio, said the issues at the port were easing and the supply chain problems facing the world’s fifth largest economy were global — such as a shortage of truckers and port congestion.

“The situation is improving,” he said, referring to Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the country’s containerised freight. Asked whether people should start to buy now for Christmas, he said: “I would say just buy as you do normally.”

Britain’s economy is forecast to grow at 6.8% this year, the fastest in the G7 leading economies, though supply chain disruption and inflationary pressures are constraining the global economy, the IMF said.

Britain’s economy returned to growth in August after contracting for the first time in six months in July. But its exit from the EU has worsened some of the problems by constricting immigration.

Britain is short of about 100,000 truckers, leading to queues for fuel at filling stations and worries about getting food into supermarkets, with a lack of butchers and warehouse workers also causing concern.

“Felixstowe is among one of the affected ports. The main factors in addition to pandemic impact behind this situation are high consumption demand and lack of truck drivers for land side distribution,” Maersk said.

It was diverting some ships “to alternate continental ports” to regulate the flow of cargo and minimise the effect on supply chains and British consumers ahead of Christmas, it said.

A lack of labour is also affecting farmers.

Two sisters running a pig farm in northeast England urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift strict immigration rules for butchers or risk seeing the pork sector collapse under the weight of overly fattened animals.

“The pressure is like pressure we’ve never had before, emotionally it’s absolutely draining, financially it’s crippling,” Vicky Scott said over the squeals of hundreds of pigs. “We’re in a fairly bad place right now.” 

Reuters

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