Defra review into labour shortages in the food supply chain

First published: 05 August 2022

A picture of Tom Bradshaw leaning on a gate in a green field

We highlight the importance of immediate action to alleviate workforce pressures in our response to Defra’s launch of an independent review into labour shortages within the food supply chain.

Defra has provided detail of the independent review into labour shortages within the food supply chain, which will consider the challenges facing food and farming businesses to recruit and retain the labour they require. 

It will provide recommendations for the government to tackle labour shortages. Automation, domestic employment and migration routes will be included in the review.

John Shropshire, former CEO of G's Fresh Group, will chair the review. 

Much needed review a catalyst for action

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “We have long highlighted the impacts of workforce pressures across the food and farming sector so this review is much needed. We hope it will act as a catalyst for government to take action to ensure the food supply chain has the workforce it needs to continue producing, picking, packing and processing high quality, affordable and sustainable food for the nation.

“While there must be a focus on long term workforce requirements and business resilience in the future, including things like boosting domestic recruitment and automation, farmers and growers are seriously concerned about how they will get the workforce they need right now. This review cannot overlook the immediate and pressing issues the food supply chain is facing as we speak.

“Farmers and growers are seriously concerned about how they will get the workforce they need right now. This review cannot overlook the immediate and pressing issues the food supply chain is facing as we speak.”

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw

Shortage Occupation List

“With this review taking place imminently, it’s important that the government no longer delays commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the Shortage Occupation List. This will look at jobs where there is a shortage of suitable workers in the UK and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers, so will play a big role in determining job shortages across the food supply chain.

Review must include ornamentals

“We also urge Defra to expand this review to include the British ornamental plant sector, which contributes a huge £1.4 billion to the UK economy. It is currently not included which means it could face significant waste and financial losses due to workforce shortages, thereby reducing its current positive contribution to the country overall.”

What's included in the review?

  • Farming sectors, including pigs, eggs, poultry, red meat, dairy, arable and edible horticulture
  • Primary processing, including meat processing and seafood processing
  • F​ood and drink manufacturing

The review follows the publication of the Government Food Strategy which recognises that the sector cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour. 

Timescales

The final report will be published in 2023. 

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