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Farming Union writes to UK Minister as labour crisis deepens

By David Porter

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NFU Scotland has written to the UK Government calling for immediate action as the labour crisis affecting the agricultural, food and drink sectors deepens.

Union president Martin Kennedy says the sector is in a critical condition.
Union president Martin Kennedy says the sector is in a critical condition.

In its letter to Kevin Foster MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, NFU Scotland’s specific asks are:

Introduce 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.

Commission an urgent review by the Migration Advisory Committee on the needs of the agricultural, food and drink sectors.

Review the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) scheme and replace it with an improved permanent scheme that works for both farm businesses and seasonal migrant workers.

A firm commitment from the UK Government to help secure a future workforce for the long term.

In the past week, NFU Scotland joined with other Scottish food and drink organisations in writing to the UK and Scottish governments calling for urgent action on tackling the labour crisis in the industry ahead of the crucial Christmas season - https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/news/scottish-food-and-drink-sector-calls-on-government-action-as-pre-xmas-labour-and-recruitment-crisis-

Highlighting the huge losses that some companies are experiencing, Scottish vegetable co-op East of Scotland Growers used NFU Scotland’s website blog last week to describe how labour and haulage issues had already seen four million heads of broccoli and cauliflower wasted - https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/blog/staffing-harvest-and-haulage-issues-affecting-scottish-growers-andrew-faichney-guest-blog

NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said: “I urge the UK Government to act.

"The concerns that I raise on behalf of farmers in Scotland are echoed by farming, food and drink organisations across the UK.

"I am in no doubt that without action, the current disruption will only worsen.

“A shortage of both permanent and seasonal workers, combined with a lack of haulage drivers and processing staff, is seriously impacting agricultural, food and drink businesses across Scotland.

“The implications of this ongoing shortage for business and the economy have been steadily building and the impact can no longer be absorbed by farmers and the food and drink industry.

"The ramifications are already in plain sight, focussed on empty supermarket shelves, and the impacts are now being felt by consumers.

“NFU Scotland calls on the UK Government to take immediate action on labour to ensure that agriculture can continue to sustainably produce high quality food and drink for our country and our exports.

"This is vital for our farmers, rural communities, the wider supply chain and for our consumers.”

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