The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has urged the government for a workforce Recovery Visa to tackle workforce shortages over the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the report commissioned by the union, there is currently a vacancy rate of 13 per cent in farming and a shortfall of around 500,000 workers across the food and drinks sector.
As a result, the NFU is listing several measures to fill the labour gap, which includes a revised permanent seasonal worker scheme for UK horticulture and a 12-month Covid-19 Recovery Visa, which will enable critical sectors in the supply chain such as HGV drivers to recruit labourer’s on a short-term basis.
The union has also requested an urgent review on the impact of ending freedom of movement across the food supply chain.
“For the past 18 months, food and farming businesses have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full of food, but as this report demonstrates, businesses throughout the supply chain are really feeling the impact of workforce shortages,” NFU president Tom Bradshaw said.
“Farm businesses have done all they can to recruit staff domestically, but even increasingly competitive wages have had little impact because the labour pool is so limited – instead only adding to growing production costs.”
Bradshaw added that a Covid-19 Recovery Visa along with a permanent seasonal worker scheme would be a “vital route” to address the sector’s urgent requirements until a domestic workforce can be trained to fill the gap in migrant workers.