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This Christmas may not be a cracker, Grant Shapps admits

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A minister admitted yesterday that there will be Christmas shortages when a harbor boss warned consumers: ‘Let’s not kid ourselves.’

Ports are full of blockades, store shelves are empty, the threat of truck strikes looms and experts have warned the cost of Christmas will rise.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted he couldn’t guarantee that families wouldn’t run into shortages when they shop for Christmas favorites.

He said, ‘We can all be together, we can buy things, there will be food on the table.’

But he added: “I cannot guarantee that every line of every product will be available. It’s at that level, instead of thinking that Christmas will have to be canceled and upset children all over the country.”

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps admitted he couldn’t guarantee families wouldn’t run into shortages when shopping for Christmas favorites

However, Tim Morris, head of the Major Ports Group, which represents major commercial ports, said consumers should take government guarantees with a grain of salt.

He added: ‘This week we’ve seen improvements in what we call stacking levels, so the number of containers was on the floor, for example. But let’s not kid ourselves.’

Shipping giant Maersk has diverted a number of ships from Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, to rivals on the mainland.

The chaos has led many to suggest that Britain is facing a winter of rising prices and empty shelves.

A woman pushes a shopping cart through a bare-looking pasta aisle at a Tesco branch in south London

A woman pushes a shopping cart through a bare-looking pasta aisle at a Tesco branch in south London

Families have already started panicking to buy toys, a major store owner said, as brands like Barbie and Lego warned they were selling at “Christmas quantities.”

Unions threaten a winter of discontent, with a wave of strikes over wages and working conditions. Unite says it can take its 50,000 truck drivers off the road despite the supply chain crisis.

There are also threats to close universities, rail links, municipal services and schools in what could amount to one of the most significant periods of industrial action since 1979.

The government has introduced policies to try to fill some of the 90,000 truck driver vacancies.

But attempts to encourage 5,000 drivers from Europe to come with temporary visas have failed, with only a handful taking up the offer.

Grocery stores have been mocked for filling gaps in the shelves with outlandish items to make stores look less bare.  Pictured: A Co-op store in Hertfordshire

Grocery stores have been mocked for filling gaps in the shelves with outlandish items to make stores look less bare. Pictured: A Co-op store in Hertfordshire

A Gloucester Asda store that has filled empty shelves with Lynx Africa is pictured this week

A Gloucester Asda store that has filled empty shelves with Lynx Africa is pictured this week

Meanwhile, chocolate boxes like Quality Street, Celebrations and Dairy Milk have been thrown into fruit and vegetable slots.  Pictured: A Tesco in Heaton, Newcastle

Meanwhile, chocolate boxes like Quality Street, Celebrations and Dairy Milk have been thrown into fruit and vegetable slots. Pictured: A Tesco in Heaton, Newcastle

It says it has also introduced rules to allow unrestricted pick-ups and drop-offs for truck drivers from abroad here, putting the equivalent of 1,000 drivers on the road by New Years.

Currently, carriers from the EU can make up to two trips to deliver or collect goods between locations in the UK within a week.

But the change drew ire from Britain’s logistics industry, which said it would ‘sabotage’ British drivers by letting foreigners undercut wages.

Consumers see missing products in some parts of supermarkets, largely due to delivery problems and a shortage of C02 used in thousands of products

Consumers see missing products in some parts of supermarkets, largely due to delivery problems and a shortage of C02 used in thousands of products

Other measures announced by the government to address the truck driver shortage include increasing the number of tests, simplifying the testing process and creating training for up to 5,000 trainees.

Retailers have responded by pushing wages for new drivers above £50,000 and offering large sign-up bonuses.

Supply chaos has led some consumers to rush to get presents and food for Christmas, with a major retailer reporting panic buying this week.

Henry Birch, the chief executive of Very and Littlewoods, said: “I was amused when Tory chairman Oliver Dowden said there was no reason to panic buying toys, and what we saw was products flying off our virtual shelves and people who bought toys in panic. .

Containers pile up at Felixstowe, Britain's largest container port, in another pre-Christmas crisis as it takes ten days instead of five to move each container due to a lack of truck drivers and port staff

Containers pile up at Felixstowe, Britain’s largest container port, in another pre-Christmas crisis as it takes ten days instead of five to move each container due to a lack of truck drivers and port staff

Ikea and Nestle are among the big companies saying their products are being hunted over a lack of truck drivers that affects all parts of British life

Ikea and Nestle are among the big companies saying their products are being hunted over a lack of truck drivers that affects all parts of British life

The mood is one that is more nervous about product availability. The coming months are unpredictable.’

Figures from business analysts Kantar revealed that sales of cosmetic gift sets doubled in September, compared to the same month last year, as shoppers rushed to buy early Christmas presents.

Sales of baby toys and gift wrap rose by a tenth, while stores sold 15 percent more games and puzzles than in the same period a year ago.

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