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Sunak and G7 ministers address supply chains and Xmas logjams

A busy international container port on the South East coast of the United Kingdom
Bosses at Felixstowe, the UK's busiest commercial port, said yesterday backlogs would have a knock-on effect on Christmas deliveries. Photo: Getty (SciPhiTV via Getty Images)

G7 finance ministers and central bank governors have pledged to work together to monitor supply chain issues, as UK ports warn of a potential pre-Christmas logjam slowing deliveries.

During a meeting hosted by UK chancellor Rishi Sunak in Washington DC, Sunak stressed the importance of global cooperation to ensure that supply chains are more resilient as the world emerges from the pandemic.

“Supply chain issues are being felt globally – and finance leaders from around the globe must collaborate to address our shared challenges," said chancellor Rishi Sunak.

“Today we have collectively agreed to work closely over the coming months – and together we will build a strong and resilient recovery.”

The Treasury hopes this will build on the action being taken in the UK to ease the supply chain issues through temporary visas.

The temporary visa scheme was put into action on Monday to attract foreign HGV drivers and poultry workers to the UK.

The government opened the scheme to grant time-limited visas for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers. It is currently taking three weeks for the government to process applications.

Only around 20 visas out of just 300 applications have been issued so far, meaning it will be at least November before significant numbers start working in the UK.

Read more: Ports urge shoppers to start buying for Christmas early

Yesterday, shipping bosses warned that shoppers should plan ahead for Christmas amid delays at ports, with almost £1.5bn ($2bn) in goods hit by delays in the run-up to the festive season.

Cory Bros head Peter Wilson told the BBC on Wednesday that there may be less choice on the shelves because of the global supply chain slowdown, advising people to order items in a "timely fashion".

"I can say completely, categorically that supply chain will not fail and that goods will be on the shelves through Christmas," Wilson said on the BBC's Today programme. "There just may not be that absolute choice we're all used to."

A spokesperson for the UK's largest commercial port, Felixstowe, told the BBC that there are currently 50,000 containers waiting for collection.

Research by Russell Group also showed that imports of clothing would feel the greatest impact, with retailers such as Tesco (TSCO.L) and Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) among the most exposed to disruption.

The analysis was based on 10 weeks of trade between 12 October and Christmas Day, and was modelled on 2020 figures.

Watch: Shipping containers build up at UK's largest commercial port