Businesses in the food and drink sector fear Brexit could strip out crucial workers from the supply chain, potentially leading to higher prices and a lack of stock on supermarket shelves, according to a survey released today by key trade bodies.
Close to half of the businesses surveyed (47 per cent) said EU workers were considering leaving due to the uncertainty created by Brexit, and more than a third of firms said they would be unviable if they could not employ EU workers.
EU nationals have already started leaving the UK to find more secure employment; 31 per cent of business said EU nationals have jumped ship since the referendum. There are around two million EU nationals in the UK workforce, a fifth of whom work in the food and drink industry.
The trade bodies involved in the survey, which included the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the National Farmers Union, said the government must recognise the importance of the workers in the food and drink supply chain and legislate according to their needs.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC said: "The UK's post-Brexit labour market and immigration policies should be framed to support domestic firms, including retailers, access the skills they need."
Any sudden reduction in the number of EU workers would create "significant disruption" for the food chain, Opie said, which could impact the availability of products and push up prices.