Workers in field cauliflower brassicas crops

John Shropshire, the former head of G’s Fresh Group, is to chair Defra’s scrutiny of the food industry’s labour shortage.

The Independent Review Into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain will provide recommendations to help policymakers tackle the issue. It comes after recognition by the government in its food strategy that the industry cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour.

The review will look at the challenges facing food and farming businesses to recruit and retain workers, and consider the roles played by automation, domestic employment and migration routes.

Shropshire, who stepped down from his role at horticulture producer G’s Fresh Group last year, will carry out the review with support from an expert panel.

“Our farming and food supply sectors are facing multiple challenges, and labour shortages are contributing to this,” he said. “This review will help us understand how we can address labour shortages and boost productivity in the food supply chain.”

It has been welcomed by the NFU as a “catalyst for government to take action to ensure the food supply chain has the workforce it needs”.

The union’s deputy president, Tom Bradshaw, said: “While there must be a focus on long-term workforce requirements and business resilience in the future, including things like boosting domestic recruitment and automation, farmers and growers are seriously concerned about how they will get the workforce they need right now. This review cannot overlook the immediate and pressing issues the food supply chain is facing as we speak.”

The NFU has urged Defra to expand the review to include the British ornamental plant sector, which contributes £1.4bn to the UK economy.

The industry body has also called on the government to stop delaying the commissioning of the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the shortage occupation list to determine job shortages across the supply chain.