Chronic food industry labor shortages could push prices even higher
As a result of the Brexit and coronavirus epidemics, chronic labor shortages in the food and agriculture sectors could push food prices higher and lead to more food imports, MPs warned.
MPs from the Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said there were half a million vacancies in the sector in August, representing one-eighth of all roles.
Huge labor shortages in the food industry have led to rotting of uncultivated crops in the fields, lack of labor in meat processing plants killing healthy pigs on farms and disrupting the food supply chain, as well as threatening UK food security.
The committee – chaired by Conservative MP Neil Parish, five other Conservatives, four Labor MPs and a Scottish National Party colleague – wrote in a report that the shortage of manpower was “the only major factor affecting the sector”.
They found that food and agribusinesses were badly affected by labor shortages, with the pig sector particularly affected, leading to a crisis in domestic production. Industry associations have previously claimed that up to 40 independent farms left the sector as a result.
Farmers warned for a while about the shortage of workers after many foreign workers left home during the epidemic, and Brexit EU limited the number of temporary workers who could travel to the UK under the seasonal worker visa scheme.
The government has kept the number of seasonal worker permits – those who come to the UK to pick the daffodil national crop or flower – for the 30,000 people approved in 2021, resisting calls from the sector for a significant increase.
The lawmakers wrote that “they have no doubt about the seriousness of the problems in the food and agriculture sector due to labor shortages”, and criticized the ministers for their attitude towards post-Brexit visa policies.
“The government has not shown a firm understanding of these issues, and has at times even tried to blame the sector on the basis of misinformation about its own immigration system,” the report said.
“The government must radically change its attitude and work with the sector to create solutions that will help solve the short, medium and long term problems in order to help the UK food industry and enable it to prosper.”
The lawmakers made a number of recommendations to the government in the report, including a more timely announcement of temporary visa schemes, the need to change how it relates to the industry, and the need to expand the seasonal worker visa scheme by 10,000. Permission
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