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UK Fuel Shortage and Worldwide Labour Issues

October 1, 2021

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What's happening?

On Monday the conversation on UK social media was dominated by the fuel shortage that was causing lengthy lineups at filling stations, and confrontations between motorists worried they wouldn’t be able to get to work or home or appointments on time. The Petrol Retailers Association said that as of Tuesday 37% of the filling stations they represent were out of fuel.

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Brexit proponents on Twitter blamed the crisis on Covid-19, while the Remain supporters blamed Brexit. So why is this happening?

As with many major crises there are multiple factors that came into play to create this situation. The current issue isn’t a lack of fuel, it’s a lack of drivers to deliver the fuel to the filling stations. On Wednesday it was announced that within a couple of days military troops will be deployed to drive fuel trucks to help alleviate the shortage. 

Mark Shanahan, associate professor of politics at the University of Reading, said “The current fuel crisis has many fathers: an ageing HGV workforce, the impact of COVID driving a shortage in drivers across Europe, and elements of the British media fuelling the panic with doom-mongering headlines,”. 

How does this impact you?

As demonstrated when the ship Ever Given blocked traffic in the Suez Canal for 106 days earlier this year, there is an international interdependence of trade and supply. Labour shortages are being experienced worldwide because of Covid-19 and other factors, and in addition to fuel issues in the UK this is causing widespread issues with food security.

It's not just the trucking industry facing labor shortages. There are concerns within some areas of the international farming community, for example, that much of this year's harvest will be left to rot because there aren't enough agricultural workers to harvest it. Malaysia, the world’s No. 2 palm oil producer, has lost about 30 percent of potential output of the edible oil used in everything from chocolate to margarine. Southern Vietnam, one of the world’s top exporters of shrimp, has had their production drop by 60 to 70 percent from pre-pandemic levels. And 20% of the tomato production in the south of Italy has been lost this year, due to the extreme heat and transport issues. In the UK, dairy farmers are sometimes forced to dump milk because there’s no one to deliver it for processing. 

Supply Chain Monitoring: the Value of Social Media Data in a Crisis

While countries like China and India aren’t experiencing worker shortages, it’s widespread enough globally that there has been an increase in food costs and a decrease in availability, especially when combined with the effect of recent heat waves on agricultural production. Rising food prices have a greater impact on people in low- and middle-income countries since they spend a larger share of their income on food than people in high-income countries. Rapid phone surveys done by the World Bank in 48 countries show a significant number of people are running out of food, or being forced to reduce their consumption. 

So not only might people in the West have trouble getting a Christmas turkey this year, more people worldwide may be facing food insecurity, which can lead to unrest.

What can you do?

The goal of any supply chain is to source and receive intact goods on schedule and at a minimal cost. According to a 2017 Deloitte report on supply chain technology, “most companies fail when trying to find a way to have reliable visibility over their entire supply chains while limiting the dependence on one or several stakeholders.”

IoT sensors and GPS tracking are becoming more common to help supply chain managers monitor in real time for disruptions. Disruption alerts help retailers efficiently reroute shipments, plan production, costs, and inventory, and alert customers or stakeholders to delays. 

Social data aggregation platforms allow supply chain managers to search multiple social media sources to find gaps in their situational awareness—especially during global crises. Accessing this information as quickly and easily as possible helps retailers better predict and understand unfolding events impacting their supply chains, enabling faster and more effective response.

The Echosec Systems Platform aggregates and filters data from a variety of online social networks so supply chain managers can stay alerted to relevant data in real-time. Users can narrow in on data coming from areas near their supply chain infrastructure using location-based search features. 


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