Supply chain issues continue as calls made for 12-month Covid Recovery Visa

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Action needed: Calls are being made for a Covid Recovery Visa (image: Getty/Monty Rakusen)
Action needed: Calls are being made for a Covid Recovery Visa (image: Getty/Monty Rakusen)

Related tags Supply chain Food Beer Hotel

Pubs are set to face further issues with the supply chain and food and drink deliveries as the crisis over delivery drivers and staffing shortages continues.

The news comes as it was revealed that some 20.4% of accommodation and food service operators​ have had issues with getting goods or services, figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed last week.  

The follows exclusive news comes as The Morning Advertiser​ that revealed the pubs could be faced with chicken supply issues.

A new cross-industry report ​from 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 disruption across the whole of the supply chain. The visa would enable all involved throughout the supply chain to recruit critical roles, such as HGV drivers, as a short-term response to labour shortages.

The Road Haulage Association, the road transport trade association, recently revealed that the UK is short of 100,000 HGV drivers​. 

Key workers

The report highlights the impact the pandemic and the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy is having on the sector’s ability to recruit key workers. It said there was an average vacancy rate of 13% and estimates there are more than 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses

It is also calling for a commitment to a permanent, revised and expanded Seasonal Worker Scheme for UK horticulture and wants an urgent review by the Migration Advisory Committee on the impact of ending free movement on the food and farming sector.

The calls come as it was revealed last week that 70,000 pigs are backing up on farms and growing at a rate of 15,000 a week. National Pig Association chief executive Zoe Davies said this was due to pork processors permanently reducing throughput as a result of labour shortages in plants, especially butchers. 

"We are desperately seeking support from the Government, particularly the Home Office, to facilitate access to these people now. For the second time in under a year the pig sector is facing some really tough choices, which we really shouldn't have to be taking as demand for British pork is still strong,” she said. 

British Meat Processors Association  chief executive Nick Allen said some processors are 25% down on capacity and having to cut down on lines, warning that the country is already facing a shortage of pigs in blankets at Christmas.

Nightmare situation

He described the situation in the processing sector as a ‘nightmare’ and said the Covid Recovery Visa would help get some extra people into the country.

National Farmers' Union  vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “For the past 18 months food and farming businesses have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full of nutritious and affordable food, but as this report demonstrates, businesses throughout the supply chain in a wide variety of roles are really feeling the impacts of the workforce shortages.

“At the very start of the supply chain, farm businesses are feeling the pressure. For example, horticulture farms are struggling to find the workforce to pick and pack the nation’s fruit and veg, with some labour providers seeing a 34% shortfall in recruitment.

“Farm businesses have done all they can to recruit staff domestically, but even increasingly competitive wages have had little impact because the labour pool is so limited – instead only adding to growing production costs."

The Food and Drink Federation’s chief executive, Ian Wright CBE, said: “The report makes it crystal clear that today’s labour shortages are caused by a multitude of structural factors beyond those created by Covid-19 and the end of the Brexit transition period.”

Meanwhile, Richard Harrow, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation, added: “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.”

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