A delegation from the National Pig Association (NPA) met with Ministers and officials from various government departments to discuss the ongoing problems caused by labor shortages in the pork supply chain.
The meeting, which took place in London with additional people joining online, was chaired by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis and featured officials from Defra, the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education.
It also included prominent figures from the pork processing sector, as the supply chain made a case for action to ease shortages that, NPA says, threaten to constrain pork production over the years ahead.
Discussion covered the issues faced in recruiting sufficient labor in both the processing and farm sectors, the reasons behind these problems and how government policy could support the industry going forward.
According to the NPA, a summary of some key action points for Defra and others that came out of the discussions include:
- Organize further meetings with DWP and DfE (and industry) to explore just what is available, what works, what doesn’t and other areas of support
- Explore what the £3000 ‘immigration skills surcharge’ is for, alongside other costs associated with the skilled worker visa application charge
- Explore exemptions around English language requirement
- Explore more flexibility around apprenticeships
- Collate and submit evidence for seasonal labor requirement for Christmas uplift
- The group will write to the Home Office with evidence to support why butchers should be added to the SOL, and in response to review/consultation due out shortly.
Whilst thanking the Farming Minister for chairing the meeting with government representatives, and acknowledging that “a lot of ground” was covered, NPA chairman Rob described the meeting, ultimately, as “frustrating”.
He said: “We managed to get our arguments across. However, I’m afraid we didn’t secure the commitments on policies that would allow the pork supply chain to secure the labor it desperately needs in the long-term. We are hopeful, however, that it is a solid starting point, on which to try to move forward.”