// BRC warns that food manufacturers are on the edge of coping amid labour shortages
// The retail group says its not too early for the government to do something to make sure there isn’t a problem
According to the British Retail Consortium, food manufacturing in the UK is under such strain amid staff shortages that production may have to move out the country.
Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability said shortages of HGV drivers and other supply chain staff meant that the sector was “just on the edge of coping” right now.
He warned the Christmas period would be “incredibly challenging” in some areas.
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Factories cannot recruit enough staff, he said, adding: “We are struggling.”
While speaking at a special session of the UK Trade and Business Commission, an independent group of business representatives and MPs looking to make recommendations to the government, Opie told the commission it was incredibly challenging for the industry, but said 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.
“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,” he added.
“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,” he told the commission.
“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,” he added.
“We’re not seeing major shortages and not anticipating that, but it’s the constant challenge, trying to keep head above water. There’s no slack in system,” Opie said.
“Christmas is going to be incredibly challenging in some areas.
“There might be small scale disruption. Even delivery times for online could be more difficult. It’s too early to predict, but not too early for the government to do something to make sure there isn’t a problem,” he added.