Westminster’s response to EFRA recommendations regarding agri-labour shortages “wholly inadequate”, committee claims

The government has not demonstrated a strong understanding of the labour shortages facing the food and farming sector, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee said today (23 June).

Government response to agriculture's labour crisis is inadequate, EFRA claims

Government response to agriculture’s labour crisis is inadequate, EFRA claims

Image: NFU

In its response published today to the committee’s labour shortages report published in April, the government does not accept the committee’s recommendation to lower the English language requirement for Skilled Worker Visa applicants in the food and farming sector such as for butchers. It also rejects the committee’s recommendation to undertake a “lessons learnt” exercise on the temporary short-term visa schemes established last autumn. The government also turns down the committee’s recommendation to make the Seasonal Workers Pilot a permanent scheme, EFRA revealed in a statement.

However, the government announced that 10,000 additional seasonal worker visas will be issued for the remainder of 2022, of which 2,000 will be allocated to the poultry sector. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also says that it will commission an independent review to tackle labour shortages in the food supply chain.

In light of the government’s response, the committee has written to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, who recently announced he would be carrying out an inspection of the immigration system as it relates to the agricultural sector.

The letter highlights the key findings of the committee’s December 2020 and April 2022 reports on this topic, and the deficiencies of the government’s replies – including the one published today.

The Chair of the EFRA Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, said: “The government’s overall response to our recommendations is wholly inadequate. We continue to be concerned that labour shortages in the food and farming sector pose real risks of further price rises for consumers in supermarkets, reduced UK competitiveness and increased amounts of imported food.

”The government really must listen to the experts – our farmers and our food producers. We need a more robust immigration regime that allows the farming and food sector to plan ahead with certainty and grow their businesses. Otherwise, we are placing in danger the very future of the sector.”.