The ongoing shortage of labour in the UK’s agri food industry is a long-term problem, a committee of MPs has been warned.
“We have four million people who work from farm to fork, and we are 500,000 short,” said Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Association.
“Every business I know is expecting this to last into 2023 and into 2024. Every single one. It is a very long-term thing,” he explained to MPs on Tuesday.
MPs were told that investment is needed in apprenticeships and training, and food businesses would welcome tax breaks to allow them to invest in the likes of robotics and artificial intelligence.
A similar visa scheme is also available for 5,500 poultry processing workers
Criticism was also aimed at the UK government over its recent attempts to address labour shortages.
Duncan Buchanan from the Road Haulage Association said a new visa scheme which allows 5,000 lorry drivers to come to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas is “too short”.
A similar visa scheme is also available for 5,500 poultry processing workers and last week the UK government announced temporary visas for 800 butchers in pork processing.
“People aren’t sitting around doing nothing and waiting for visas to turn up so they can come to a different country, work for three months, disrupt their lives, and get stuck in the UK over Christmas,” Buchanan said.
“If you were designing a visa scheme to fail, you would design it something like this,” he added.