Comment: We are building a picture of labour shortages

By Aimee Mahony, chief poultry advisor, NFU

It has been a busy lead up to what many framed as the ‘return to normal’ with the Government’s roadmap out of COVID-19 and restrictions. In the lead up to 19 July we are yet to see the full effects of the phased reopening of the foodservice and hospitality sectors.

Producers are reporting concerns regarding volatile market conditions with rising input costs, however another challenge I am now hearing consistently is that of access to labour. Businesses throughout the supply chain are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit workers, whether that be for catching, cleaning out, farm work or hatchery operations.

Some businesses are also reporting difficulties in recruiting managerial positions as well as people for entry level jobs. Immigration policy is politically sensitive, however the Government must act promptly to avoid any further ramifications across the supply chain.

Whilst concerns related to attracting sufficient seasonal labour ahead of Christmas 2021 are still paramount, members are also reporting difficulties in recruiting workers for year-round permanent roles. This is not unique to agriculture, as reports of shortages across the hospitality and care sectors have made headlines and the Road Haulage Association have highlighted the growing concern to UK supply chains from a driver shortage.

It is imperative that we all work together to highlight these issues and seek solutions. We need to find measures that can be taken in the short, medium, and long-term to ensure our supply chains are resilient and robust.

Considering this, the NFU held a roundtable meeting chaired by NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw, which included representatives from the main agriculture trade bodies and organisations from across the food and drink sectors. Leading this collaboration across the food and farming sector is vital to evidence the issues businesses are facing. If you can, I urge you to contribute evidence on the impacts of labour shortages in your business to help us build a representative picture to present to the Government. 

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