British consumers urged not to panic buy

Britain’s small business minister on Thursday warned citizens against "panic buying" as surges in natural gas prices and labor shortages in food production and other industries have prompted concerns of an economic crisis heading into the holiday season. 

Paul Scully told the U.K.’s Times Radio, “There is no need for people to go out and panic buy," according to Reuters

He added that “this isn't a 1970s thing at all," referencing Britain’s 1978 to 1979 winter when inflation and industry problems fueled an economic crisis in the country. 

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Recent rising natural gas prices have impacted energy, chemical and steel producers across the U.K., with production supply chains also interrupted, fueling labor shortages among farmers, trucking and other businesses that had already been worsening due to COVID-19 and Brexit, according to the BBC.

On Wednesday, Avro Energy and Green Supplier Limited became the latest British energy suppliers to announce they would stop trading following the surge in natural gas prices. 

A handful of other suppliers had already left the market earlier this year, which prompted warnings from U.K. energy regulator Ofgem and business minister Kwasi Kwarteng that rising gas prices would continue to force more suppliers out, Reuters reported

Panic buying fears have also been fueled by labor shortages, with Britain’s National Farmers' Union (NFU) head Minette Batters writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday calling for an emergency visa to allow businesses to recruit workers outside of the country. 

"Without it, more shelves will go empty and consumers will panic buy to try to get through the winter," Batters wrote, according to the BBC. "That is why we must have an urgent commitment from you to enable the industry to recruit from outside the UK over the next 12 months to get us through the winter and to help us save Christmas."

Tesco, the U.K.'s largest supermarket chain, also warned of panic-buying this Christmas, but later said in a statement that it had “good availability, with deliveries arriving at our stores and distribution centers across the U.K. every day,” the BBC reported. 

The U.K. government has attempted to quell fears among populations, with the BBC reporting that a government spokesperson said this week that the country's supply chain is “highly resilient.” 

"We continue to work closely with industry to understand labour demand and supply, including both permanent and seasonal workforce requirements," the spokesperson added.