Lettuce, broccoli and oranges are among a number of items that may run out after France imposed a temporary ban on British transport companies on Monday (21 December).
Concerns about a new version of the coronavirus in the UK resulted in the lockdown of outbound traffic at the Dover port while trucks were prevented from crossing the sea or via the Eurotunnel into mainland Europe over the next two days.
Sainsbury’s warns that as a result, shoppers can see gaps in shelves typically found in lettuce, some lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruits from the continent.
But the supermarket giant assured customers that supplies for Christmas Eve were readily available and already in the country.
Thousands of trucks scheduled to cross the English Channel on Monday had to leave the port of Kent.
The trucks that showed up in Dover on Monday morning were greeted with “French borders closed” and rejected.
It comes as southeast England and large parts of Wales are battling a new variant of the coronavirus which is believed to be transmitted far more than the original strain.
A Sainsbury spokesman said: “All the products for the Great British Christmas Lunch are already in the country and we have plenty.
“If nothing changes, we’ll see gaps in the lettuce, some lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruit in the coming days – all imported from the continent this season.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shaps said it was “about 20% likely” that goods entering and leaving the country passed through Kent.
He told Sky News, “But it’s not a mainstay. Most of the stuff is literally going in and out of containers unaccompanied and it will continue to flow.”
When asked what could be the flaw, Mr Schaps said: “Of course we don’t want these links to be closed for too long, but it’s not uncommon for them to be closed and disconnected.
“In the short term, this is not a specific problem. But the key, of course, is to solve it.”
Alex Weich, general manager at Logistics UK – formerly known as the Freight Transport Association – said he “doesn’t really care” about food shortages and urged people not to panic.
Goods imported to Britain by truck from Europe are usually “short-lived” goods, he added.
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium said:
“While goods can enter from France, some freight forwarders will be willing to send trucks and drivers to the UK without guarantee that they will return to the EU on time.”
On the most important production delivery routes, up to 10,000 trucks pass through busy times every day, even during holiday periods.
Mr Opie said: “We urge the UK and EU Governments to come up with a pragmatic solution as soon as possible to avoid consumer disruption.
“Retailers are stockpiling goods before Christmas, which should prevent immediate trouble. However, the prolonged closure of France’s borders will be a problem as Britain enters the final weeks before the end of the transition on December 31st.”