Farming News - Industry veteran John Shropshire to chair review into labour shortages

Industry veteran John Shropshire to chair review into labour shortages

05 Aug 2022

Defra has announced that John Shropshire will chair the Independent Review Into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain. Mr Shropshire is an industry veteran, who stepped down from his role as CEO of major horticulture producer G’s Fresh Group last year.

He will be supported by an expert panel that draws in expertise from across the farming, fisheries, processing and manufacturing aspects of the supply chain.

As set out in the  Government Food Strategy, the Government recognises the sector cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour, especially in light of global pressures elsewhere. The  Independent Review into Labour Shortages  in the Food Supply Chain will consider the challenges facing food and farming businesses to recruit and retain the labour they require and will provide recommendations for industry and Government to consider. The review will encompass the roles of automation, domestic employment and migration routes.

Today’s announcement builds on actions taken by the Government to support farmers through the current challenges they are facing, including bringing forward direct payments to farmers to help with cashflow which are now being paid in two instalments. Additionally, the Government has launched a review of  supply chain fairness in  the pig sector and has committed to responding to a review exploring how to fast track the development and adoption of automation across horticulture.

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

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."

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.

"The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options, wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology. To help with these efforts, Defra is working with industry and the Department of Work and Pensions to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and drink sector among UK workers."

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.

“With this review taking place imminently, it’s important that the government no longer delays commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the Shortage Occupation List. This will look at jobs where there is a shortage of suitable workers in the UK and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers, so will play a big role in determining job shortages across the food supply chain.

“We also urge Defra to expand this review to include the British ornamental plant sector, which contributes a huge £1.4 billion to the UK economy. It is currently not included which means it could face significant waste and financial losses due to workforce shortages, thereby reducing its current positive contribution to the country overall.”