Report flags up industry labour shortage

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Farm and food factory businesses are struggling to find enough workers
Farm and food factory businesses are struggling to find enough workers

Related tags: Labour providers, Industry, Food

The majority (70%) of food and beverage manufacturing companies are struggling or in crisis with regard to the supply of low and unskilled workers, a survey by the Association of Labour Providers (ALP) has revealed.

The trade association, which promotes responsible recruitment practices for organisations that supply the workforce to food processing, horticultural and wider manufacturing, said UK food production depends on securing an adequate supply of labour to harvest, process, pack and distribute produce.

But it highlighted that an increasing number of farm and food factory businesses were finding it hard to hire enough workers. It also raised concerns about the decreasing number of migrant workers as EU unemployment is at 7.3% and falling fast.

The ALP submitted its concerns to the House of Commons Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in response to a report Feeding the nation: labour constraints​, published in April 2017.

An ALP survey of 109 companies revealed that 70% of labour suppliers were unable to meet their food industry clients’ employment demands for the Christmas 2017 peak. It also found that 64% of labour providers reported a decline in the number of people applying to work in the food supply chain for the 2017 Christmas peak, with only 14% reporting an increase on 2016.

More importantly, for 2018, 43% of labour providers said they did not expect to be able to source and supply sufficient workers for the food manufacturing and distribution sectors, while 49% said the same for seasonal agricultural workers.

The survey also revealed that 71% of food and beverage manufacturing companies anticipated labour shortages in low and unskilled roles in 2018.  Around one in three companies expected a labour supply crisis.

Currently, an average of 60% of agriculture and horticulture businesses are experiencing shortages in low and unskilled roles with one in eight in crisis, it said.

Food growers and manufacturers were also reporting real impacts on their businesses caused by labour shortages from increased costs, to relocation, scaling down and threats to viability.  

The report submitted by David Camp, chief executive of the ALP, concluded: “Food growers and manufacturers are reporting real impacts on their businesses caused by labour shortages from increased costs through wage and benefit enhancements and increased overtime working to relocating and scaling down operations.”

The ALP has also called upon Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to be a leader and champion for the sector, to ensure the UK food industry is not “irreparably damaged”​  by labour and skills shortages. 

Related topics: People, Skills Gap

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