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    Food supply sector needs more workers: report

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    Britain’s domestic food production is under threat from a lack of workers, a review into labour shortages in the food sector said, urging the government to announce a follow-up to the existing seasonal worker visa scheme by the end of 2023.

    The country is grappling with a cost-of-living crisis driven by the highest grocery inflation since 1977, putting its food supply into the spotlight. Farmers and supermarkets say a lack of workers is partly to blame for higher prices.

    An independent review commissioned last year and published on Friday said addressing the labour challenge was key to ensuring domestic supply.

    In December 2021 the government extended the Seasonal Worker visa, which allows workers to come to the UK for up to six months to work in horticulture, until the end of 2024 but also asked the sector to reduce its reliance on foreign labour.

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said about 60 per cent by value of the UK’s food needs should be produced at home.

    “As a short-term measure, 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 said.

    British farmers and producers need to know they will be able to recruit workers from abroad for the next five years to give them the confidence to invest, the report said, noting the country’s labour shortage across all sectors.

    It also recommended a campaign to promote the attractiveness of the food supply industry to British workers to increase the labour available to the food supply sector, and better investment in the training of domestic workers.

    Farming minister Mark Spencer said the government would set out its full response to the review’s findings in the Autumn.

    “We will continue to do all we can to encourage greater take up of farming and food sector roles,” he said.

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