British dairy farmers have already been forced to pour tens of thousands of litres of milk down the drain after going off before it can be collected due to the HGV driver shortage, amid mounting fears it is just the 'tip of the iceberg' and even more could be thrown away ahead of Christmas.
One fourth-generation dairy farmer in central England who asked not to be named said he's been forced to dump 40,000 litres of milk over the past two months after no one turned up to collect it because of an unprecedented shortage around of 100,000 lorry drivers.
Other farmers have turned to 'distress milk services', which are small companies set up to buy milk at lower prices and transport it to other outlets to stop it from being dumped. As many dairy farmers do not make a profit on their milk, any small knocks are felt very quickly, industry leaders have warned.
'It's cutting, it's emotionally draining when you're producing milk and at the end of the day you have to pull the plug and it has to go,' the farmer told Sky News. He added that he has had to destroy four milk loads since the beginning of August and previously had only had to do it two or three times in 45 years due to bad weather.
Rob Hunthatch, who runs a distress milk service rescuing milk for half its normal price, said he managed to save 160,000 litres of milk in Cheshire alone - a 100,000 litre increase from the previous month - but had been unable to save a further 80,000 litres.
'This is only the tip of the iceberg,' Mr Huntbatch warned. 'I think it will get worse - in wintertime if there's snow, drivers get slowed down, and it's going to make even more of an impact.'
It comes amid product shortages caused by gaps in global supply chains and a lack of HGV drivers, as Britons face the biggest squeeze on their finances for more than a decade because of inflation, rising prices and looming multiple tax increases.
Milk is discarded on a farm in Shropshire county, Britain, September 3, 2021
A driver walks between the lorries at Ashford International truck stop, in Ashford, south-east England on October 5, 2021
In an aerial view, lorry cabs are lined up in a holding facility on September 9, 2021 in Dover
Industry chiefs last night accused Boris Johnson of setting Britain on the path to rampant inflation as the Prime Minister stepped up his battle with business.
Firms warned labour shortages – which have triggered empty shelves and queues at petrol stations – will lead to spiralling prices unless the Government intervenes.
In his Conservative Party conference speech yesterday, Mr Johnson admitted the process of reshaping the economy to one with less immigration and better wages will be 'difficult'.
But he insisted he will not change course as he accused bosses of using mass immigration as 'an excuse' not to invest in their company or staff.
However business leaders hit back last night, accusing Mr Johnson of treating them like the 'bogeyman' over the UK's labour shortages.
Speaking yesterday at the conference, in Manchester, Mr Johnson said: 'That's the direction in which the country is going now – towards a high-wage, high-skilled, high-productivity and, yes, thereby a low-tax economy.
'That is what the people of this country need and deserve,' the Prime Minister said.
'Yes, it will take time, and sometimes it will be difficult, but that is the change that people voted for in 2016.'
But he faced a tsunami of criticism from the private sector which accused him of indulging in 'anti-business rhetoric' and 'playing the blame game'.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned the economy is at a 'fragile moment' with the risk of inflation becoming a problem.
The country appears to be hurtling towards a winter crisis, with wholesale gas prices surging to a record 400p yesterday - a 37 per cent increase in 24 hours and 600 per cent up on January - but dropped to around 274p after Vladimir Putin's intervention.
The Russian President was today accused of turning energy 'into a weapon' by suggesting he will pump more gas into Europe if Brussels approves Moscow's controversial pipeline bypassing Ukraine.
Putin is accused of deliberately withholding gas supplies as leverage with the EU, who he wants to sign off on his new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, run by state energy Gazprom, that bypasses Ukraine. Sending the price of a therm tumbling by £1 yesterday afternoon, he said: 'Let's think through possibly increasing supply in the market, only we need to do it carefully. Settle with Gazprom and talk it over'.
In response Jennifer Granholm, the US secretary of energy, said the US is watching Russia 'carefully', adding: You don't want to see energy made into a weapon'.
Rising energy prices could add 30 per cent to bills next year and are also fuelling concerns about inflation, leaving UK households facing a further financial squeeze because of rising prices, labour shortages and gaps in global supply chains.
Petrol prices are up, food prices are increasing, house prices are growing and taxes such as national insurance and council tax are also about to go up all faster than wages.
The cost of electricity and gas is also hitting power hungry industries such as steel, glass and chemicals, meaning consumers will soon be paying more for a huge number of products including cars and building materials.
Gas prices in Britain are closely linked to Europe's supply from Russia because the UK now only gets around 50 per cent of its supplies from North Sea fields. Prices are rising amid claims Moscow is deliberately withholding supplies while the amount of gas in storage in Britain is low because of a long winter.
Electricity prices are also rising, not helped by the amount generated from renewables dropping due to low winds and a poor summer for sunshine.
Britons could see their energy bills rise by 30 per cent next year, analysts have said, as suppliers are predicted to 'fall like dominoes'.
Research agency Cornwall Insight has predicted further volatile gas prices and the potential collapse of even more suppliers could push the energy price cap to about £1,660 in summer. The forecast is approximately 30 per cent higher than the record £1,277 price cap set for winter 2021-22, which commenced at the start of October.
Joe Malinowski, founder of TheEnergyShop.com, warned of a 'gas bill explosion', adding: 'As things currently stand, we are headed for another increase of at least £500. If things don't settle down soon, increases of £600, £700 or even £800 cannot be ruled out.'
Industry experts have been warning Britons to buy their Christmas dinner in advance and even keep it in the freezer as fears grow over supermarkets running out of festive items including pigs in blankets and other party foods in the run up to December 25.
A shortage of butchers could mean that farmers will be forced to 'throw pigs in a skip' because they can't be slaughtered and carved - with 150,000 animals under threat of being culled in the next week.
Nearly two-thirds of UK manufacturers plan to raise their prices in the run-up to Christmas due to rising inflation, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. Its survey found 62 per cent of industrial firms expect to increase their prices over the next three months - the highest result since data gathering began at the end of the 1980s and far over the previous record of 38 per cent in 2008. The results suggest families are set for a Christmas crisis of rising costs as they prepare for what is already the most expensive time of the year.
And with Cabinet Ministers failing to reassure people that supermarkets will be fully stocked this Christmas, and Boris Johnson even this week insisting it's 'not the job of government to come in and fix every problem' when quizzed about the supply chain crisis, families are now taking matters into their own hands by stocking up on anything with a shelf life just in case.
Staff from supermarket chain Aldi told consumer journalist Harry Wallop at a Christmas showcase that frozen turkey crowns are already 1,500 a day and pudding sales are up 45 per cent on last year. The retailer also revealed that 250,000 'Chocolate Orange bombes' have been ordered from its supplier in anticipation that the dessert is likely to be Aldi's biggest hit this Christmas.
Marks and Spencer said sales of their frozen Christmas food have rocketed by 500 per cent in total on last year as families stockpile, with more than 25,000 turkeys sold by the start of October and sales of their party food growing by 40 per cent per week.
Iceland revealed this week that people have already begun filling up on festive frozen food, with turkey sales up by 409 per cent compared to this time last year while the the word 'Christmas' reached over 17,000 searches across its website in the past week alone.
Nearly two-thirds of UK manufacturers plan to raise their prices in the run-up to Christmas due to rising inflation, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.
Its survey found 62% of industrial firms expect to increase their prices over the next three months - the highest result since data gathering began at the end of the 1980s and far over the previous record of 38% in 2008.
The results suggest families are set for a Christmas crisis of rising costs as they prepare for what is already the most expensive time of the year.
A raft of major companies have warned of inflationary pressures due to labour shortages, rising energy costs and gaps in global supply chains, including Greggs, Hotel Chocolat, and consumer goods giants Unilever and Reckitt.
'Acute supply shortages and rising raw material costs drove an historic surge in inflationary pressures in the third quarter,' said Suren Thiru, the BCC's head of economics.
And Tesco executives have reportedly warned the Government that it is worried about panic-buying in the run-up to Christmas being 'far worse' than stockpiling that took place at the start of the pandemic last year, according to trade magazine The Grocer.
It comes as Ipsos Mori polling reveals panic-buying, the energy crisis, a shortage of HGV drivers and fuel are some of the biggest concerns Britons have about this winter, with 54 per cent of families worried they can't afford Christmas this year.
Desperate to ensure Christmas is normal this year after the chaos of Covid last year, single mother Pat Smith, 26, has splurged £2,000 on food already, clearing shelves at six supermarkets and grabbing 24 multipacks of crisps to her overflowing trolley rather than just one.
She told the Sun: 'I don't want to miss out. I've planned and I'm ready. I am buying what I need for the next four months including Christmas Day. Last year's lockdown hit me hard. I ran short of items and couldn't get to the shops regularly.
'When I did, the shelves were empty. As Christmas approached, I was devastated my family wouldn't have everything they needed. I