Food prices will rise if EU workers employed in the food and drinks industry are forced to leave, representatives of the sector today warned.
More than 30 food and drink bodies came together to call on the government to give "unambiguous reassurance" to EU workers they can stay and work in the UK after Article 50 is triggered.
The entirety of the supply chain should be at the centre of Brexit negotiations, the group said, and it should be on par with the financial or automotive sectors if a work permit system is adopted.
All options should be considered, including a points based system for shortage occupations and sector-based, seasonal or guest permits for workers in the industry, the group said.
If not, the UK will face less options and higher prices.
The call was led by Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, and was co-signed by chief executives at organisations like the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the Food and Drink Exporters Association and the British Retail Consortium.
The sector employs nearly four million people in growing, harvesting, producing, packaging, selling and serving food and drink in the UK, Wright said, and many of them are skilled.
For more than three years, shop prices for food have been kept in check, but that can't continue without the guaranteed support of the government, Wright warned.