Boris Johnson asked for ‘emergency’ food deal, says Bolsonaro | Supply chain crisis

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has claimed Boris Johnson asked him for an “emergency” deal to ease shortages of an unspecified food product, amid concerns about further hits to supermarket supplies.

A lack of drivers and food pickers, as well as carbon dioxide used to stun animals for slaughter and create dry ice to keep food fresh, has led to fears that some goods will be missing from shelves in the run-up to Christmas.

Downing Street has urged people not to panic buy, after the announcement by BP that there may be a lack of fuel at some petrol stations and the managing director of Iceland supermarket warning food supplies could come under threat within days, not weeks.

Government insiders worry about a return to the days leading up to the first coronavirus lockdown, where shelves were left bare as people stockpiled items such as toilet roll.

Bolsonaro made the claim about Johnson’s request after a meeting between them in New York earlier this week at the UN general assembly. The prime minister had stressed the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine to his Brazilian counterpart.

However, speaking in his weekly webcast to supporters, Bolsonaro recalled that Johnson “wants an emergency agreement with us to import some kind of food that is lacking in England”, according to Reuters, though he did not specify what the product was.

It is understood the UK government regards the claim as untrue.

Some have speculated the food Brazil could be helpful with supplying is turkeys, after UK poultry producers said serious staff shortages caused by Brexit could mean there are not enough of the birds to go around this Christmas.

According to the website Poultry World, Brazil is the third highest producer of poultry – including chicken and turkey – in the world, and exported 12.5m tonnes to the EU last year.

On Thursday, Johnson’s deputy spokesperson said fuel and food have a “very resilient supply chain” in the UK. They urged people not to change their behaviour, and stressed: “People should continue to buy it as usual.”

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, vowed to “move heaven and earth” to solve the nationwide shortage of truck drivers. Asked about the Petrol Retailers Association warning drivers to keep a quarter of a tank of fuel in their car in case forecourts ran out, he downplayed the issue and said motorists should “carry on as normal” and not panic buy.