Bloomberg says that from abattoirs to restaurant kitchens, the UK food sector is facing a massive challenge this summer: there just aren’t enough workers.
The food industry, already facing labour shortages because of Brexit and the pandemic, is now being stretched to capacity as the country reopens.
Meat processors are cutting production and a “catastrophic” dearth of drivers is disrupting food deliveries to supermarkets. Warehouses and farms are short of labour too, threatening to choke food supply flows, while local pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants are having to restrict service and boost wages for chefs and waiting staff.
“We’re constantly fighting every day to try and put out fires across the supply chains,” said Shane Brennan, who heads the Cold Chain Federation.
“We’re already seeing empty shelves in some parts of the food supply chain, in supermarkets and across hospitality. That is going to continue. And we’re going to see intermittent shortages throughout the summer.”
Fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables has been particularly hard hit because of wastage if they don’t move on time, Brennan said. While UK harvests are under way, retailers are struggling to source local produce and are reaching out for more European supplies instead, he said.
Growers have for years worried about access to seasonal workers after Brexit discouraged inflows of low-paid EU fruit pickers. The nation’s horticulture farmers are short of 40,000 seasonal workers, even after the U.K. government granted 30,000 non-UK visas to boost the labor force, according to the National Farmers’ Union.