In a new cross-industry report1, the UK food and drink sector is calling for a 12-month Covid-19 Recovery Visa to help alleviate the workforce shortages that are causing serious disruption across the whole of the supply chain.
The report, commissioned by an alliance of 12 leading food industry bodies, including the British Frozen Food Federation, has been sent to government ministers today highlighting the impact the pandemic and the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy is having on the sector’s ability to recruit key workers. It highlights an average vacancy rate of 13% and estimates more than 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses.
In order to ensure continuity, quality and choice in our food supply both in the immediate and medium-term, the report sets out clear ways government can help the food and drink industry overcome the current workforce challenges. These include:
- The introduction of a 12-month Covid-19 Recovery Visa which would enable all involved throughout the supply chain to recruit critical roles, such as HGV drivers, as a short-term response to labour shortages.
- Commitment to a permanent, revised and expanded Seasonal Worker Scheme for UK horticulture to ensure it is flexible and large enough to meet the industry’s workforce needs.
- An urgent review of the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to address the lack of agri-food sectors included.
Richard Harrow, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation said: “Labour shortages throughout the food supply chain are creating a ‘perfect storm’ of increasing costs for our members.
“Whilst the long-term solution is to train more UK nationals, we will only avoid further disruption to food supplies and inflationary cost increases by taking the temporary visa measures this report is recommending.”