Government responds to Shropshire Review with up to £50m

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Up to £50 million has been promised from government to fund technology and help reduce reliance on migrant labour. Credit: Getty/Hiroshi Watanabe
Up to £50 million has been promised from government to fund technology and help reduce reliance on migrant labour. Credit: Getty/Hiroshi Watanabe

Related tags Training & recruitment Investment labour shortage Technology & Automation

The Government has announced several measures it will be taking following the publication of John Shropshire’s Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain.

Among the support announced by the UK Government is a sum of up to £50m to fund new technology to help transition packhouses to fully automated systems.

This will start with work on a group of major packhouses over the next 12-18 months, in an effort to identify where support is needed to make this universally viable. Further details will be announced later this year to cover 2024-25 and 2025-26.

An extension to the seasonal worker via route has also been granted, with an additional five years to give business more time to invest in automation and ease the shift from migrant labour.

A total of 43,000 visas will be available to the horticulture sector in 2025, with another 2,000 visas for poultry. Further detail of the number of visas available for 2026 to 2029 will be provided later this year.

The government has said it will also be working with technology companies to accelerate the development of robotic crop harvesters – aiming to bring prototypes on a par with human pickers in three to five years.

At the same time, the government will be collaborating with a several other initiatives and departments to improve the appeal of food and drink careers among domestic workers. This includes work with the Food and Drink Sector Council’s Sector Attractiveness Project Group, and the Department for Work and Pensions to both showcase the diverse opportunities on offer and provide the skills needed for food and farming jobs.

To this end, it has also provided seed funding to establish the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH) – a new industry body that will support professional career development. 

Commenting, Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We have a world-class food and drink sector, and the measures announced today will strengthen this by boosting funding for the cutting-edge technology that will reduce reliance on migrant labour in the long term.

"Businesses do best when they can plan effectively for the future."

This announcement follows the Prime Minister’s promise earlier this year to provide ‘the largest ever round of farming grants’​; and comes just a week before the second annual Farm to Fork Summit which will be held at Downing Street on 14 May 2024.

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