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Place orders early, warns foodservice equipment body

Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have led to material shortages, longer lead times and staffing issues, warns The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA).

According to research among its members, the key materials shortage for many is stainless steel, with fears that the situation may get worse.

Copper, plastics, and components of all sorts are also in short supply, as are some specialist items and products like wooden utensils.

One member described supply as ‘hand to mouth.' Having said that, several companies had stocked up in preparation for expected shortages, so the impact on foodservice operator customers will be mitigated, at least in some cases.

When it comes to lead times, the situation is equally bad. A combination of component shortages, logistics issues and transport delays means some companies are reporting a wait time of 18 weeks for goods to arrive from Europe compared to four weeks pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit.

The combination of shortages and transport issues have led to increased costs, too. One member reported two recent price rises from its stainless steel supplier, one of 5% and one of 7%. Another said the price increases of components and transport had added 15% to its costs. A third reported a 100% rise in cost for some plastics.

It's not only products and materials coming from Europe. There are delays and cost increases on imports from the USA and Middle East. Some report that transport costs from China have risen 500%. As for India, ‘almost impossible' was how an importer described the situation.

"Where orders would previously have taken 12-16 weeks to arrive in Europe from Asia, the norm is currently now 6-7 months," one member reported.

Issues over recruiting are compounding the problem, with one member saying: "We’ve been told that a new warehouse person will attract a premium of 20% over the existing wage we pay.”

Phil Williams, president of European Federation of Catering Equipment (EFCEM), which FEA is a member of, says: "Although many FEA members are finding that their business is picking up well as we come out of lockdown, these shortages, delays and staffing issues are all huge problems that could put a massive dent in sales, wrecking the recovery.

Let's hope some are short-term problems but, meanwhile, we'll be lobbying governments in the UK and Europe to put support in place and, where possible, deliver solutions.

"Until stocks are re-established effectively by supply chains, locally and internationally, and until the shipping companies have realigned their services, the recommendation is to place orders early with suppliers so that you are ahead of the queue.”

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