Sainsbury’s boss is right to call for pragmatic immigration to stem food inflation
Calls by the Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s in today’s Times for the government to review the Shortage Occupation List echo what The British Meat Processors Association has been saying for some time.
Put simply, we need Government migration policy to be responsive to proven labour shortages in the food supply chain. That means allowing companies desperate for staff to hire from overseas, including jobs that aren’t highly skilled but that the country is short of nevertheless.
Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA explains: “It’s an inconvenient truth that not enough British people are willing, able, or suitably geographically located to take up vacancies, not just in meat processing but also in the wider food supply chain and other sectors. The pool of suitable candidates for everything from butchers and packing line operators through to farm workers and carers is smaller than the number of job vacancies.”
This poses a number of problems.
- First, it stifles the ability of British companies to grow, and chokes off economic development.
- Second, too many employers chasing too few workers stokes inflation; people will pay more for their food, goods and services.
- Third, not having enough people working to produce food in Britain makes us more reliant on imports and erodes the UK’s food security.
So, what can be done? Nick Allen re-iterates the call from the British meat industry: “We’re calling on Government to adopt the pragmatic recommendations of the Shropshire Review. In particular we support the call to allow more semi-skilled workers to come here to work, and to relax the initial English language requirement for jobs that don’t require such a high level of attainment. This isn’t about industries wanting to pay less for labour, it’s about wanting to stop prices rising further from here.”
There is a growing chorus of companies, industries and parliamentarians who are calling for Government to act now to prevent further damage to our domestic industries from this chronic labour supply shortage. Perhaps the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee summarise this best on page 21 of their latest Food Security Report.