Today, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has launched an inquiry into labour in the food supply chain, determining the impact of the new system on the sectors most likely to be affected. The Committee will investigate how Government plans to invest in UK skills intend to compensate for the projected shortfall in workers from abroad.
The UK will leave the EU at the end of 2020, introducing a new points based immigration system which will restrict the economy’s access to low-skilled European workers despite high demand for labour within the agriculture sector and wider food supply chain.
The inquiry will also look at the impact and effectiveness of the Government’s two-year Seasonal Workers pilot scheme, which allowed non-EU nationals to come to the UK for 6 months each year to provide seasonal support for fruit and vegetable farms. The pilot was expanded last month, and the Committee will scrutinise the extent to which the scheme is sufficient in meeting demands in the agricultural and horticultural sectors.
Chair of the EFRA Committee, Neil Parish MP, said: “British agriculture and food processing rely heavily on access to labour from non-UK Nationals. The Government has increased the Seasonal Workers pilot scheme to allow up to 10,000 workers this year, but farming groups have called for this to be vastly increased.
“The Government has also announced a points-based immigration system that will not include an immigration route for lower skilled workers. We want to explore the impact that this could have on access to labour in the food supply chain, particularly as some roles would be very challenging to replace with technology and automation.”