By Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) -Up to 90% of British fuel stations ran dry across major English cities on Monday after panic buying deepened a supply chain crisis triggered by a shortage of truckers that retailers are warning could batter the world’s fifth-largest economy.
The post-Brexit crisis in the UK’s lorry drivers caused by the COVID-19 epidemic has created chaos within British supply chains. It is threatening disruptions and rises in fuel prices.
Ministers warned people not to panic buy just days after Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, spent billions of pounds trying to prevent a shortage in food due to an increase in the price for fertilizer, which is the most expensive.
On Sunday, dozens of cars snuck back to petrol stations in the nation and ate up all available supplies. Many stations were forced to close. Reuters journalists reported that pumps across Britain were closed on Monday or displayed signs stating fuel wasn’t available.
Independent fuel retailers now make up 65% of UK forecourts. The Petrol Retailers Association reports that members have reported that between 50% and 90% of the pumps in certain areas were empty.
Gordon Balmer of the PRA was a 30 year veteran of BP (NYSE 🙂 and said that “we are seeing panic purchasing of fuel in many places of the country”.
“We need some calm,” Balmer said. Please don’t panic: If people take out the network, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
According to The Times (and Financial Times), Britain might call in the army to supply fuel to its consumers.
According to George Eustice, Environment Secretary, there is no fuel shortage and advised people not panic buy.
Gas stations, hauliers and retailers cautioned that there are no immediate solutions to the shortage of truck drivers, which is estimated at around 100,000. Furthermore, transporting fuel requires additional licensing and training.
SUPPLY CHAIN CRUNCH
Britain’s retail industry warned the government on Friday that unless it moves to alleviate an acute shortage of truckers in the next 10 days significant disruption was inevitable in the run-up to Christmas.
Since months, farmers, processors and supermarkets warned of a severe shortage in heavy goods truck (HGV) drivers, which was causing difficulty to obtain goods on shelves.
Giles Hurley, Aldi UK CEO said that although his discount chain is in a strong position, there was no guarantee of inflation around Christmas.
BP stated on Sunday that the fuel supplies at nearly a third its British petrol stations ran out. The government suspended competition laws in order to let firms work together to alleviate the shortages.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Business Secretary, stated that the suspension will allow companies to exchange information and coordinate their responses.
The business department stated in a statement that this step would allow the government to cooperate constructively with fuel suppliers, hauliers, and other retailers to minimize disruption.
On Sunday, the government announced that it would issue temporary visas to 5,000 truck driver from foreign countries. Around 25,000 trucks returned to Europe prior to Brexit. Britain could not test 40,000 truck drivers during COVID-19 lockdowns.