Food and farming bosses warn businesses ‘still in meltdown’ amid labour crunch
Chaos in the supply chain must be resolved to ensure food security in the UK, industry bodies have warned.
The farming and producing sectors have been battered in recent months by labour shortages, including abattoir workers and HGV drivers. The industry has also struggled with inflation pushing up costs of energy, feed and fertiliser.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called on ministers to pledge to keep the country’s self-sufficiency for food production at 60 per cent at the very least.
Industry bodies are also urging action on a widespread shortage of workers, as they have come together in a food security summit today.
Farmers had been “working hard to keep shelves and fridges full” over the past 18 months, according to NFU president, Minette Batters.
The government had “tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes,” such as temporary visas to fill vacancies.
However, Batters said that to avoid a continuation of the crisis, “long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”
Supermarket shoppers experienced empty shelves earlier this year while abattoirs were forced to kill healthy stock as businesses struggled to keep up with demand.
Dr Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said: “The UK pig sector is still in meltdown as worker shortages continue to impact our ability to process the number of pigs we already have on farms.
“The entire food supply chain and government must pull together and resolve the backlog now or we will have no independent pig producers left.”
Davies said it would be a “travesty” to see the proportion of EU pork eaten in the UK – 60 per cent – increase.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, called for a “coherent food policy to maintain UK production, including a clear strategy for solving labour shortages throughout the supply chain.”
Bob Carnell, chief executive of ABP UK (Anglo Beef Processors), said the nation needed to “attract and retain more skilled workers from home and abroad” and to “ensure a level playing field for quality British meat when compared to imports.”