The former group CEO and current chairman of G’s Fresh, John Shropshire, has called for more continuity in the seasonal worker scheme to give fresh produce businesses the confidence they need to invest.

In an exclusive video interview with FPJ editor Fred Searle, following the publication of the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, Shropshire says it is crucial that the government guarantees sufficient access to seasonal labour for at least the next five years.

The review, which was chaired by Shropshire, emphasises that it is “vitally important that the replacement of the Seasonal Worker visa scheme pilot is announced by the end of 2023 to ensure industry has enough workers to maintain domestic food production levels”.

The report adds that the new scheme must be guaranteed for a minimum term of five years “to give businesses the confidence to invest”.

Shropshire, alongside a panel of experts from across the food industry, recommend that the government considers removing the cap on the total number of visas and extending the length of visas to nine months to account for longer harvesting periods.

In this FPJ interview, Shropshire also stresses the urgent need to improve the image of the UK’s fruit and vegetable industry by addressing concerns around the exploitation and welfare of seasonal workers.

He calls for stronger regulation and enforcement when it comes to recruitment and worker welfare, and argues that the GLAA is underfunded and therefore unable to carry out enough audits.

“The producer needs be prepared to pay for some of this, so that we have a really professional and properly set up system,” Shropshire adds.

“We know for a fact that other countries manage this better than us. The exemplars are New Zealand and Australia. If we had a scheme as good as theirs, then we would have something we could be really proud of.”