Defra has published its Independent Review into Labour Shortages, providing recommendations to help the Government and industry.

The review highlights 10 key recommendations that businesses in the sector can follow to access the labour they need in a more efficient way in order to ensure it is used effectively in the long-term.

The production and processing sectors are the specific focus of the review:

  • Farming sectors including pigs, eggs, poultry, red meat, dairy, arable and edible horticulture
  • Primary processing including meat processing and seafood processing
  • Food and non-alcoholic drinks manufacturing

What does the sector think?

Responding to the publication, NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “We are pleased to see the independent panel recognises that action is needed to improve British farmers’ access to a skilled and motivated workforce.

“Ensuring we have enough workers, both permanent and seasonal, is essential to maintaining domestic food security and providing British consumers with high quality, nutritious, climate-friendly food. Our own recent survey looking at worker shortages across the agriculture industry shows that 41% of respondents reduced the amount of food they produced due to being unable to recruit the essential workforce needed.”

One of the recommendations made in the review, chaired by John Shropshire OBE is that the Food and Drink Sector Council (FDSC) leads the implementation of ‘a comprehensive strategy to enhance sector attractiveness,’ collaborating with key industry organisations, including IGD.

Naomi Kissman, social impact director of IGD, said: “IGD has a long and proud history of working with young people in education, giving them insight into the range of careers available in the food and consumer goods industry through our programme of school workshops and virtual work experience weeks. As we accelerate the work we do in this space, we are delighted to be named in this set of recommendations as an organisation with the right skills and expertise to raise awareness of the fantastic employment opportunities in our sector.

Skilled labour

George Eustice, former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told BBC News that those who are good at manual labour like fruit pickers should not be deemed ‘low-skilled.’

He also told BBC News that by making it difficult for migrant workers to gain employment, labour shortages were ‘exacerbating’ the rate of inflation, contributing to rising energy costs and UK food inflation.

The BMPA’s CEO, Nick Allen, told Food Management Today: “We think that George Eustice’s comments to the BBC today offer a clear dose of realism that the skills we lack are often ‘dextrous human skills’ rather than academic and ‘cognitive skills’ which current immigration policy favours. He’s also right in saying that the higher cost to source people with these specific skills from abroad is ‘exacerbating’ inflation.”