Monday, 28 May 2018 18:19

FOOD INDUSTRY ISSUES FRESH WARNINGS OVER BREXIT WORKER SHORTAGES

The UK Government must guarantee continued access to permanent and seasonal workers following Brexit and urgently address shortages in seasonal labour that already exist, according to 100 key players in the UK’s food industry, including NFU Scotland.
 

The warnings featured in a new ‘Food Supply Chain Manifesto’ published the same day the Association of Labour Providers warned that 49% of their providers do not expect to be able to source and supply enough workers this year.
 
This reinforces fears that fruit and vegetables will be left to rot due to a shortage in agricultural labour in the agri-food sector across Scotland and the UK, which employs 3.8 million people and is worth £112 billion to the economy.
 
SNP MSP Graeme Dey said:
 
“Scotland has the opportunity to strike a completely different tone to the Tory Government’s hostile environment that presents unnecessary barriers to vital EU workers which our burgeoning food and drinks sector depends on.
 
“With continuing uncertainty for the thousands of rural EU workers already living and working in Scotland and for our farming and food production sector’s future access to permanent and seasonal workers, not to mention the loss of half a billion pounds of EU support for our rural economy - it is clear that rural Scotland will pay an unnecessarily high price for a Tory hard Brexit.
 
“The only sensible path to protect jobs and prosperity in rural Scotland is for the Tory Government to confirm that we will stay in the Single Market and Customs Union following Brexit.
 
“And if we want to reach our potential and welcome a sufficient number of permanent and seasonal workers to Scotland, it is clear that we need an immigration policy tailored to our social and economic needs - something that will only be possible with full control of immigration devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”
 

‘Farmers worry that lack of migrants will ruin crops’ – story can be found on p.4 of today’s The Daily Telegraph
 
“Come to Scotland” – Welcoming talent to stimulate growth Commission recommends incentives package to attract people and investment.
 
The NFU’s ‘FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN MANIFESTO For a successful Brexit’ was published here today. It urgently calls on the UK Government to

  •          Maintain free and frictionless trade with our major trading partner, the EU, and secure the benefits of existing EU preferential trade arrangements, at least until government can replace them with acceptable alternative arrangements;
  •          Ensure ongoing access to an adequate supply of permanent and seasonal labour;
  •          Continue to promote food production through agricultural policy alongside our existing high environmental, health and animal welfare standards; and
  •          Ensure businesses operate under an efficient and proportionate regulatory system that is centred on scientific evaluation and that incentivises innovation and competitiveness.

Other excerpts from the report state: 

  • Collectively, the agri-food sector employs 3.8 million people and is worth £112 billion to the UK economy. On top of that farmers spend over £16 billion a year on inputs and services from companies that provide the UK economy with a significant proportion of jobs and growth, particularly outside major urban areas.
  • It is imperative that the EU and UK reach an agreement that maintains continuity in existing trade arrangements as far as possible, including the avoidance of a hard border in Northern Ireland.
  • The UK food supply chain acknowledges the role it can play in attracting more of our domestic workforce and in developing the necessary skills. However, with UK unemployment at historic lows and much of the supply chain operating in low-unemployment rural areas, alongside the devaluation of our currency, many of our businesses are experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff from within the UK. Government must ensure that in the short- to medium-term the industry has access to the overseas labour market to help meet its recruitment needs.
  • Government policy should also, as a matter of urgency, address the significant shortages in seasonal labour that already exists in some sectors of the food supply chain, including the introduction of a new scheme which allows access for seasonal workers.
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