DEFRA review into labour shortages

By Rebecca Weller contact

- Last updated on GMT

Positive step: independent review into supply chain labour shortages to be carried out (Credit: Getty/Dougal Waters)
Positive step: independent review into supply chain labour shortages to be carried out (Credit: Getty/Dougal Waters)

Related tags: Government, Food, Training

Review into supply chain labour shortages to be carried out by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) brings a "welcome" and “positive step" forward for the sector, trade bodies across the industry have stated.

This comes as the Government yesterday (Wednesday 3 August) announced former chairman of horticulture business G’s Fresh Limited, John Shropshire OBE, would chair an independent review into labour shortages in the food supply chain.

UKHospitality (UKH) CEO Kate Nicholls said: “The unprecedented disruption to the food supply chain has created chaos for hospitality businesses already under immense pressure following the pandemic.

“Therefore, the appointment of John Shropshire as chair of the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain is a positive step for the sector as it continues to recover.

“Labour shortages extend well beyond the supply chain and continue to be one of many challenges for hospitality businesses.

“As the third largest private sector employer and representing 10% of all UK employment, support is urgently required to help businesses fill thousands of vacant roles that can boost the economy and start individuals on rewarding career paths."

Multiple challenges 

The final report has been scheduled for publication in 2023 and will draw expertise from leaders across the farming, fisheries, processing, and manufacturing aspects of the supply chain and will consider the challenges facing food and farming businesses to recruit and retain the labour.

Additionally, the review will provide recommendations for industry and Government to consider, encompassing the roles of automation, domestic employment, and migration routes.

Shropshire said: “Our farming and food supply sectors are facing multiple challenges, and labour shortages are contributing to this. This review will help us understand how we can address labour shortages and boost productivity in the food supply chain.

“I’ve worked in the horticulture industry for many years and, along with the panel of experts supporting the review, I hope we can make some clear recommendations that will have a long-term impact on reducing pressure on farmers and increasing food security.”

The Government stated the review’s announcement built on its actions to support farmers through these challenges, including bringing forward direct payments to farmers to help with cashflow, now paid in two instalments.

Recovery on knife-edge

Furthermore, the Government said it encouraged all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through training, career options, wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology.

To help with these efforts, Defra has partnered with industry and the Department of Work and Pensions to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and drink sector among UK workers.

British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Emma McClarkin OBE said: “There are myriad challenges facing our entire sector at this moment in time. Our recovery remains on a knife-edge having survived a pandemic only to be pitched into a cost of living crisis. 

"Supply chain disruptions are impacting at every stage of the process – our pubs are feeling pain but it is also hugely concerning for our brewers. We welcome the Government beginning this important review and look forward to engaging closely with the process.”

Related topics: Legislation

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