Three quarters of food businesses cannot recruit the workforce that they need, with shortages of lower skilled workers, the most extreme.
The survey also found that 40% of food businesses are experiencing a chronic shortage of pickers, packers and processors – prior to Brexit this figure was virtually zero. Chronic shortages were three times as high in lower and unskilled roles as they were in higher skilled roles.
The highest reported impact of labour shortages was an increase in recruitment and employment costs with seven out of 10 food growers and manufacturers reporting their labour costs have increased. ALP said that whilst positively raising wages this has a consequent impact on fuelling food price inflation.
It concluded that the Government support to recruit UK based workers remains "ineffective". Only one in five labour providers find that their local Jobcentre provides useful support and less than one in ten find Government return to work and employment support schemes helpful.
The result is that 69% want the immigration visa routes extended to other lower skilled roles.
These challenges look set to continue with 8 out of 10 labour providers expecting to short supply their clients this Christmas and over 60% of food growers and manufacturers expecting to not have enough workers in 2023.
“The UK food industry is a great and inclusive sector to work in, it is essential in keeping supermarket shelves stocked with reasonably priced food to keep our nation fed and critical to our nation’s food security. As much as £60m of food has been wasted on farms this year because we just don’t have enough workers. After increasing wages and investing in their sites as a good place to work, food businesses are reducing their output because there are not enough workers available to recruit,” said ALP chief executive David Camp.
“Support schemes to attract domestic workers are not working. Despite record levels of immigration, the visa schemes are not providing the numbers of food pickers, processors and packers that the food industry needs. Our plea is for government to listen to and work with our industry in partnership on an ongoing basis to address food industry labour shortages.”
He said that the current Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Industry was “a start” but called for this to act as a “catalyst” to reframe how Government works with the UK food growing and manufacturing sectors. He said this should mean that “home-grown food production is put at the core of our national security.”
The latest ALP UK Food Supply Chain Survey ran between 2nd and 22nd November 2022. The Labour Provider Survey had 87 responses and the UK Food Supply Chain had 79 responses.