Christmas Food Industry Labour Supply Crisis Looms

The latest ALP (Association of Labour Suppliers) survey of labour providers supplying the workforce to the UK food supply chain – agriculture, food manufacture and distribution – reveals that:

1. There are significant and ongoing labour supply shortages:
• In the last 3 months, only 30% of labour providers have been able to supply all their clients’ labour requirements
• Of the 70% unable to meet the food industry’s labour needs, 37% short supplied by 0-10% of their clients’ demand for workers, 17% by 10-20% and 16% by over 20%
• 36% of labour providers do not expect to be able to source and supply sufficient workers for the Christmas peak
2. The position is worse than compared to the same period in 2016:
• 50% of labour providers report that labour supply is down, with 25% reporting an increase and 25% no change
• 61% state that the quality of workers is worse and only 2% say that it is better
3. Actions needed to secure labour supply are increasing the cost of food production:
• 56% of labour providers report that their clients have had to increase wage rates to attract workers
• 77% of labour providers have had to invest more money and resources into sourcing workers thereby increasing the cost of labour supply
ALP Chief Executive, David Camp said, “These results confirm that the warning issued in the April 2017 Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report ‘Feeding the nation: labour constraints’ has come to pass in that ‘the current problem is in danger of becoming a crisis if urgent measures are not taken to fill the gaps in labour supply.’ No urgent measures have been taken, the crisis has arrived and what’s more, all the indicators are that 2018 will be worse.”

As to what can be done now in the current political situation, the ALP calls upon DEFRA to be a leader and a champion for the whole UK food supply chain and specifically for the DEFRA Access to Labour team to work with industry representatives in specialist multi-stakeholder groups:
• To produce and publish official food supply chain skills and labour data, including temporary, seasonal and agency workers in order that all parties are working from one agreed set of statistics and to inform the current work of the Migration Advisory Committee on whose recommendations future employment and immigration policies will be based;
• To design a model Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Permit Based Quota Scheme fit for the foreseeable future, ready to be launched once the political button is pressed;
• To support every business in the food supply chain with practical measures to promote our country and sector and in sourcing and retaining a competent and reliable workforce.