DEFRA appoints chair to head review into labour shortages

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Supply chain

The review will look into the Labour shortages facing the sector.
The review will look into the Labour shortages facing the sector.
An independent review into labour shortages in the supply chain will be headed up by John Shropshire, the former chief executive of major horticulture producer G’s Fresh Group.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that he will chair the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain​, while being supported by an expert panel from across the farming, fisheries, processing and manufacturing aspects of the supply chain.

Experts on the panel include: Fiona Dawson, non-executive director at Marks and Spencer, the Lego Group, and Kerry Group; Martin Ford, technical & sustainability Director at Greencore UK; Mark Greet former managing director at Falfish; William Kendall, food entrepreneur and director at Samworth Brothers; and Dr David Llewellyn ​CBE, founding member of the Skills Development Board which helped create the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture. 

Migrant labour

The Government said in its Food Strategy that it recognised the sector cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour. The ​review will consider the challenges facing food and farming businesses to recruit and retain the labour and will provide recommendations for industry and Government to consider. The review will encompass the roles of automation, domestic employment and migration routes.  

Environment secretary, George Eustice said: "I want to thank John Shropshire for agreeing to lead this Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain. His industry knowledge and experience make him an ideal candidate to chair the review.

“Whilst labour shortages are affecting countries around the world, we have already boosted the number of visas available through the seasonal workers route to 40,000 and extended it to include poultry and ornamental horticulture and we are working to encourage people to take up jobs in the sector. Labour is a key issue for British farmers and farming and this report will give the government vital insight into how to address it in future.”

Multiple challenges

John Shropshire, chair of the Independent Review into Labour Shortages said: “Our farming and food supply sectors are facing multiple challenges, and labour shortages are contributing to this. This review will help us understand how we can address labour shortages and boost productivity in the food supply chain.

He added: I’ve worked in the horticulture industry for many years and, along with the panel of experts supporting the review, I hope we can make some clear recommendations that will have a long-term impact on reducing pressure on farmers and increasing food security.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has responded to the launch of the independent review. 

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “We have long highlighted the impacts of workforce pressures across the food and farming sector so this review is much needed. We hope it will act as a catalyst for government to take action to ensure the food supply chain has the workforce it needs to continue producing, picking, packing and processing high quality, affordable and sustainable food for the nation.

“While there must be a focus on long term workforce requirements and business resilience in the future, including things like boosting domestic recruitment and automation, farmers and growers are seriously concerned about how they will get the workforce they need right now. This review cannot overlook the immediate and pressing issues the food supply chain is facing as we speak."​ 

The final report and will be published in 2023 ​and the Government response will follow.

The full list of sectors considered by the Review are:

  • Farming Sectors, including: Pigs, Eggs, Poultry, Red Meat, Dairy, Arable and Edible Horticulture
  • Primary Processing, including: Meat Processing and Seafood Processing
  • F​ood and Drink Manufacturing

Related topics: People & Skills, Food Safety, Brexit

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