Johnson’s refusal to ‘reinstate migrant labour’ – as mentioned in a recent interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr – showed a lack of understanding of how the UK’s food supply worked and the challenges surrounding access to labour.
Nigel Jenney, FPC chief executive, called on the Government to address the labour shortages and to stop blaming on the food and drink industry for its inability to recruit more members of staff.
Valuing food and rink
“What we’re requesting is that government supports and values the entire food supply chain, through a range of measures including a visa system during this period of transition,” said Jenney. “There’s no point in having lorry drivers who have nothing to deliver.”
The FPC’s criticism of the Johnson followed comments from the Prime Minister that appeared to make light of the struggles of pork producers, who had been forced to cull healthy animals due to disruptions in the food supply chain.
Jenney argued that the current position of the pig industry has amplified the huge pressure there is on the whole supply chain. “It’s heart breaking and totally avoidable,” he said.
“The fallout from the pandemic, coupled with the many challenges that Brexit has brought about, will continue to affect the supply chain for many months, if not years, unless we can find solutions now.
‘Beyond our control’
“This is beyond the industry’s making, it’s beyond our control. The food industry wants to provide a great service but it needs support to ensure there aren’t empty shelves for many months to come.”
These issues have forced the food and drink industry to search for ways to mitigate the loss of labour and unreliability of the supply chain. This included making agriculture ‘smarter’ by developing and adopting the new technologies and innovations that can dramatically enhance productivity and reduce its high labour demand.
“There needs to be a fundamental shift in the perception and overall infrastructure of our food supply system,” Jenney added.