© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Co-Chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden, gestures as he speaks during the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, Britain, October 5, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble
By Sarah Young and Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – 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,” Conservative Party co-Chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky. 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,” Dowden 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.”
He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is on holiday abroad, was very much engaged with domestic and international issues. “He’s very much engaged with the job.”
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 International Monetary Fund 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 European Union has exacerbated 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 currently 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 impact 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 Johnson to lift strict immigration rules for butchers or risk seeing the pork sector https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/desperate-british-pig-farmers-tell-johnson-ease-immigration-rules-2021-10-13 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 told Reuters over the squeals of a couple of hundred pigs. “We’re in a fairly bad place right now.”