Data released by the Office of National Statistics this week said that employment in the food and drink industry continued to rise in Q1 2022, with the industry gaining 7,000 jobs since the previous quarter and 16,000 on the year, reaching 475,000.
It said the industry added jobs at a faster pace than the economy as a whole. Quarter-on-quarter job growth stood at 1.5%, above the UK’s growth of 0.8%, while year-on-year the industry saw a rise of 3.5% in the number of jobs – a more rapid acceleration than UK’s 2.7%.
The FDF said that while the figures speak of growth and recovery of the industry, the reality is a bit more “nuanced”, as the current environment remains very challenging with labour shortages persist and are severe.
The trade association said that the war in Ukraine has also unleashed a new wave of production cost rises, from higher prices of food ingredients and packaging to energy. It expected further effects to ripple through to the autumn when lower yields are expected as a result of lower fertiliser use, due to its prices skyrocketing. The sheer rise in production costs means that manufacturers will have to absorb some of these, the FDF said.
FDF chief executive Karen Betts said: “It’s good to see the rise in the number of people employed in the food and drink industry, the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. In the first quarter of this year, jobs in our sector increased by 7,000, taking the total number of people employed to 475,000.
“However, the industry still faces significant and stubborn labour shortages, across a variety of roles, from warehouse operators to engineers. These shortages, which are forcing some companies to suspend some production, are hampering growth and contributing to rising costs.”
She added that many businesses are looking to invest more in advanced technologies as a result but the uncertain economic outlook and the range of upcoming, complex government regulation is holding them back.
“The UK Government’s newly announced independent review into labour shortages across the food chain is welcome, but we also need to see the skills system work better right across the country as well as a reformed and more flexible Apprenticeship Levy,” she added.