Deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Tom Bradshaw has welcomed the news of Defra’s latest review into labour shortages within the supply chain, but warned that the pressing concerns of UK producers must not be overlooked.  

The independent review, Defra said, will consider the challenges facing food and farming businesses to recruit and retain the labour they require and will provide recommendations for industry and government to consider.

Defra announced that former CEO of G’s Fresh Group John Shropshire will chair an independent review into the recent labour shortages in the food supply chain. Shropshire will be supported by a panel that draws in expertise from across the farming, fisheries, processing and manufacturing aspects of the supply chain.

The review will encompass the roles of automation, domestic employment and migration routes. The final report is expected to be published in 2023 and the government response will follow.

Commenting on the announcement, Environment Secretary George Eustice said that the government has already made progress in boosting the number of visa available for seasonal workers and encouraging people into the food sector.

He added: “Labour is a key issue for British farmers and farming and this report will give the government vital insight into how to address it in future.”

Defra stated that it is working with industry and the Department of Work and Pensions to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and drink sector among UK workers.

Much-needed review

Bradshaw said that the trade body has long highlighted the impacts of workforce pressures across the food and farming sector, so the review is much needed.

He said: “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.”

Bradshaw added that it was important that the government no longer delays commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the Shortage Occupation List.

He explained: “This [review] 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.”