Agriculture: warning shot over labor shortages as shelves empty

Broccoli shipments have been hit
Broccoli shipments have been hit

The warning of severe labor shortages hitting the Scottish food and drink industry in the run-up to the Christmas rush, in an open letter to the Scottish and UK governments, called for urgent action. The letter was hosted by the Food and Drink Federation and highlighted that the impact of the crisis at the local level was increasing, with meat processors and transport companies all affected alongside the farm labor force needed to harvest and process a wide variety of crops.

Andrew Faichney, Managing Director of East Of Scotland Growers (ESG) yesterday highlighted the costly impact Scottish growers are facing due to labor, transport, processing availability and weather conditions.

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The chain of problems saw the Cupar-based agricultural cooperative placed in a position where it was unable to market four million heads of broccoli and cauliflower – with more chances of reaching the market. walked this week.

The industry letter stated that Brexit and the Covid pandemic had accelerated existing pressures on labor availability: “We have now reached a crisis point putting the growth, viability and security of many Scottish businesses at risk, with negative impacts for consumers. We must act now to save Christmas.

The letter called on the UK government to: – Introduce a 12-month Covid recovery visa for the food and beverage supply chain to address immediate pressures on the industry and allow employers to expand recruitment to EU workers and other foreign workers;

– Request an urgent review by the Advisory Committee on Migration of the needs of the food and drink sector;

– Eliminate work visa fees for the food and beverage supply chain until 2022.

The group also advised the Scottish Government to: – Ensure that support for automation is integrated into Scottish Government funding programs where it supports productivity and the development of better jobs; – Collaborate with the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership to continue to promote the industry as a great career destination and to provide opportunities through apprenticeships and other programs.

“These are unprecedented and turbulent times and, until stability returns for business, we call on the UK and Scottish governments to support the industry and implement these measures. Without it, we are confident that the current disruption in the supply chain will only worsen as we enter the peak trading period heading into Christmas, ”the signatories warned.

A similar letter was supported by the English NFU south of the border, where the UK-wide labor shortage has been estimated at 500,000.

Vice President Tom Bradshow said it was simplistic to say that the end of the holiday would see more people looking for work – pointing out that the majority of those workers were concentrated in urban areas and not where they were the majority of agrifood roles.

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