Seasonal labour shortages could drive down fresh produce supply and push up prices this summer, a purchasing company for the hospitality sector has reiterated.
In its Summer 2018 Market Forecast, Lynx Purchasing warned that while bad weather caused problems for growers at the start of spring, labour shortages are set to be a longer-term issue in terms of price and availability.
The Market Forecast collates data from a range of suppliers working with Lynx Purchasing to examine buying trends for restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry.
“Although the weather has changed for the better, the challenge of recruiting migrant labour threatens to be a longer-term issue for the hospitality sector…” the report reads.
“Operators across hotels, restaurants, pubs and care homes will be all too aware of the potential impact that restrictions on migrant labour have in staffing terms, and it’s an issue that extends further back into the supply chain.”
Having seen a 12.5 per cent shortfall in migrant workers in 2017, the NFU has warned the government that the recruitment of enough workers for the 2018 picking season is “mission critical” for UK fruit and veg farmers.
The shortfall is not simply the result of concerns about Brexit, although that’s a factor; EU workers now have a wider range of employment options and many have seen wages increase in their own country or can travel somewhere closer to home for seasonal work.
There are also concerns that the number of returning workers, who bring skills and experience, has fallen. And without enough migrant workers, there’s a risk produce will be left to rot in the field.
The report warned that the migrant labour issue was likely to impact supplies of some fresh salad crops, which may lead to greater reliance on imports.
On the plus side, although the bad weather in the spring meant late planting of some produce, items including tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are expected to be high quality once supplies kick in, with prices stable.
Lynx advised foodservice operators to use menu descriptions such as ‘served with a seasonal salad’ and to vary the mix according to availability and price.
In potatoes, meanwhile, businesses were urged to check prices regularly with suppliers to get the best value. Poor weather delayed potato planting much of Europe, which may start to impact supplies towards the end of the summer, Lynx said.
Current supplies of potatoes, as well as carrots, parsnip and swede, are coming from the store of last year’s crop, and are up in price but still good quality and value.