Why Are There Food Processing & Staff Shortages in the UK?
December 10, 2021
Food Processing Plant Engineering, Non-Food Installation, Fabrications, Health & Safety
One industry that affects everyone within the UK and further afield is food manufacturing, but there are big changes afoot. Issues such as Covid 19 and Brexit have had repercussions throughout the industry, and they aren’t going away. Shortages include staff, engineers, butchers, production operatives and HGV drivers. You have probably noticed during your weekly shop that some shelves in the supermarket are empty or extremely limited.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the Christmas period would be “incredibly challenging” in many places. Mr Opie was speaking at a special session of the UK Trade and Business Commission. This is an independent group of business representatives and MPs formed in order to make recommendations to the government.
The UK is known for its highly skilled and well run food manufacturing sector, which exports far and wide. There are at the moment ongoing efforts to recruit and fill vacancies for much needed staff. More recruitment will mean the UK retaining a healthy rate of food and drink production. A spokesperson for the government stated that the UK’s food supply chain is “highly resilient.” The government has now expanded a six-months visa pilot scheme, encouraging 30,000 workers to come from overseas. It also however, urged employers to “make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.”
Andrew Opie told the commission that the industry just needed “breathing space” allowing UK drivers to be recruited and tested. He said “We’ve got vacancies. We will pay more to attract drivers here. We don’t see it as a major change in immigration policy. It would be a short-term measure. “That could make a massive change for us overnight.”
It was agreed that although there could be problems at Christmas, major shortages were not anticipated. Mr Opie said “There might be small scale disruption. Even delivery times for online could be more difficult. It’s too early to predict.”