The biggest long-term lessons we can learn from the supply chain crisis

We need contingency planning for this winter, but also thoughtful work to create a more resilient economy generally, writes Hamish McRae

Sunday 17 October 2021 12:39
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<p>Thousands of shipping containers at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk</p>

Thousands of shipping containers at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk

The just-in-time world economy is in trouble. Container ports from Shanghai to Los Angeles to Felixstowe are jammed, with ships waiting to be unloaded and more waiting offshore to dock. There are not only worries about supplies for Christmas, but fears that the global shipping crisis may last well into next year.

The squeeze on energy supplies has led to blackouts in India and China. And of course the UK has its own homegrown problem of smaller energy companies going bust.

We are not used to this. Only people in their 70s or older can remember post-war food rationing, which continued right through until 1954. The only comparable global energy squeeze happened in the 1970s, when the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quadrupled the price of oil. We have become accustomed to a world where we can get almost anything we want delivered to our door whenever we want it. Fresh flowers, cut just in time for Christmas? Of course, flown in from Kenya. What could be more normal?

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