FWD asks Government to implement Covid recovery visa


The FWD has asked the Government to implement a Covid recovery visa as soon as possible, in order to improve labour shortages across the supply chain.

Joining representatives of the UK’s food and farming sector, the association explained that the growing shortage of food production and distribution workers, including HGV drivers, has resulted in empty shelves in shops and in some cases food has been left on farms unable to be picked up or processed.

Read more: Interview: JJ Foodservice talk the impact of Covid-19 on wholesale

“People can see the empty shelves in shops, and in the restaurants, the food they want isn’t available,” said FWD chief executive James Bielby. “Panic-buying, food price inflation and product unavailability will get worse without immediate and effective action from Government. We’re calling on the Prime Minister to personally intervene to save Christmas.”

The letter reads:
The food and farming sector remains on a knife edge due to the unprecedented shortages of workers across the entire supply chain. The industry came together in the summer to evidence these challenges, and the final report showed that there are an estimated 500,000 unfilled vacancies across the industry.

The situation is not improving, in fact, images of empty supermarket shelves are becoming commonplace as labour shortages bite. As we move towards Christmas, there is a substantial threat of food inflation directly impacting the poorest families. 

That is why the entire UK food supply chain from farm supply to retail outlets are united in calling for an emergency Covid Recovery Visa to open up new recruitment opportunities as a matter of urgency. Without it more shelves will go empty and consumers will panic buy to try and get through the winter.

It is a travesty that this is happening in parallel with UK food producers disposing of perfectly edible food as it either cannot be picked, packed, processed or transported to the end customer. Every day there are new examples of food waste across the industry, from chicken to pork, fruit and vegetables, dairy and many other products. The food is there, but it needs people to get it to the consumers.

Our industry report also highlights vital mid to long term solutions for accessing seasonal and permanent workers, and all remain equally important to ensure this situation does not arise again. But the supply chain will be critically damaged beyond recovery if it cannot overcome the immediate crisis.

There have already been long term consequences as businesses have had to take the decision to reduce production indefinitely or cease trading altogether. That is why we must have an urgent commitment from you to enable the industry to recruit from outside the UK over the next 12 months to get us through the winter.


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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 07960935659.


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