Warning over food production quitting UK

Warning over food production quitting UK

Staff shortages could force some UK food manufacturing facilities to move out of the country, a retail group has warned. It backs up recent warnings from the NI Food & Drink Association over labour shortages across Northern Ireland’s food processing sector – something that NIFDA has warned the NI Executive will potentially have a major impact on local food production and supply.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium said shortages of lorry drivers and other supply chain staff meant that the sector was “on the edge of coping” and that the Christmas period would be “incredibly challenging”.

He told a special session of the UK Trade and Business Commission that while the shortage of HGV drivers was a major worry he was more concerned about shortages in manufacturing and food processing.

“Despite every effort that’s being made by food factories, we cannot recruit enough indigenous people here. They just do not want to do those roles for whatever reason,” Mr Opie said.

‘A stark choice’

“That leaves the government with a choice. Does it want to maintain the level of food manufacturing as it stands at the moment in this country, or does it risk offshoring that production to other countries and then we import those finished goods into the UK?

“We’ve got a very highly skilled, well run food manufacturing sector in this country at the moment which exports quite widely. It’s under such strain at the moment and if we cannot recruit people and fill those vacancies, then retailers who buy those products to sell to us as consumers will need to look elsewhere and will end up offshoring some of that production into places like Europe.

“I think the government faces quite a stark choice here about where it wants to put its resources, where it wants to put its immigration policy, and where it wants to put the economy, in terms of the products that are manufactured here in the UK.”

A government spokesperson said the UK’s food supply chain was “highly resilient”.