ONGOING LABOUR shortages have led to reports of empty supermarket shelves across the country, prompting a warning from NFU Scotland that associated costs can no longer be absorbed by farmers and the food and drink industry.

NFUS is calling for urgent action to address the deepening labour crisis, addressing a letter to Kevin Foster MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Future Borders and Immigration.

The union has asked for the UK Government to introduce a 12-month Covid recovery visa for the food and drink supply chain to deal with immediate pressures on the industry and allow employers to expand recruitment to EU and other overseas workers; to commission an urgent review by the Migration Advisory Committee on the needs of the agricultural, food and drink sectors; and review the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) scheme so it may be replaced with an improved permanent scheme that works for both farm businesses and seasonal migrant workers. NFUS has also asked for a firm commitment from the UK Government to help secure a future workforce for the long term.

This is the second letter the organisation has penned over the past week, joining with other Scottish food and drink organisations in an industry wide letter also addressed to the UK Government, outline similar demands.

“I urge the UK Government to act," said NFUS president Martin Kennedy. "The concerns that I raise on behalf of farmers in Scotland are echoed by farming, food and drink organisations across the UK. I am in no doubt that without action, the current disruption will only worsen.

“A shortage of both permanent and seasonal workers, combined with a lack of haulage drivers and processing staff, is seriously impacting agricultural, food and drink businesses across Scotland," he continued.

“The implications of this ongoing shortage for business and the economy have been steadily building and the impact can no longer be absorbed by farmers and the food and drink industry. The ramifications are already in plain sight, focussed on empty supermarket shelves, and the impacts are now being felt by consumers," he stressed.

“NFU Scotland calls on the UK Government to take immediate action on labour to ensure that agriculture can continue to sustainably produce high quality food and drink for our country and our exports. This is vital for our farmers, rural communities, the wider supply chain and for our consumers,” he concluded.