NFU Scotland Calls On UK Government To Go Further To Tackle Labour Crisis In Farming, Food & Drink

NFU Scotland has welcomed the UK Government announcement of short-term visas for 5000 HGV and 5500 poultry workers but called on it to go further if it is to tackle the labour crisis on Scottish farms and in the wider Scottish food and drink sector.

NFU Scotland, alongside other food and drink stakeholders, has been calling for a 12-month Covid recovery visa for the food and drink supply chain to deal with immediate pressures on the industry and allow employers to expand recruitment to EU and other overseas workers.

It also wants an urgent review by the Migration Advisory Committee of the Shortage Occupation Lists so that it accommodates the acute permanent labour needs of agricultural sectors like dairy, pigs and poultry, as well as wider recruitment gaps in food and drink processing and packaging.

A recent survey of NFU Scotland’s soft fruit and vegetable growers estimated that there is a 20 percent shortfall in seasonal workers and the Union is looking for the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) scheme to be replaced with an improved and expanded permanent scheme that works for both farm businesses and seasonal migrant workers.

Labour issues were top of the agenda when NFU Scotland’s Vice President Andrew Connon and Regional chair Colin Ferguson met with Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack in his Dumfries and Galloway constituency at the end of last week.

NFU Scotland’s Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “The Government now recognises there is an issue that must be addressed.
“While the focus around labour shortages has been on Christmas goods and fuel, the impact of the labour crisis, affecting both permanent and seasonal staff, is being widely felt among our membership and that needs a meaningful, long-term approach.
“This isn’t just about Christmas, and it isn’t just about making sure there are enough turkeys or fuel to go round.  There’s an awful lot more that needs to be done by the UK Government to really solve the labour crisis that we are facing.
“The whole Scottish food and drink supply chain has been highlighting the crisis and the solutions needed for many weeks now.  Short term visas around haulage and poultry processing may provide short term relief to supply issues but long-term solutions are what is needed.
“At farm level, farmers are making business decisions now.  If permanent and seasonal staff are not going to be available then they will need to scale back production and restructure accordingly.  That will have knock on effects for consumer choice and would be a step backwards for a Scottish food and drink industry committed to growing in value to £30 billion by 2030.”

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