1-in3 UK food firms ‘unviable’ without EU workers

FDF director general Ian Wright
FDF director general Ian Wright

More than a third of businesses across the UK’s food and farming industry would become “unviable” without access to European workers, new research has found.

A report by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said 36% of firms in the industry’s £110 billion supply chain would see their business models fail if they could not hire EU nationals.

Supported by trade bodies throughout the food, drink and farming industry, the study said 17% of firms would shift their operations overseas in response to a block on EU workers.

The research was sourced from 627 business and included input from a vareity of industry groups including the National Farmers’ Union.

To ensure the future of the supply chain, they have called on the Government to secure the rights of European nationals currently living in the UK, review how immigration data is recorded and build an “attractive and effective” migration system.

Ian Wright, director general of the FDF, said: “The UK food and drink supply chain ensures that consumers have access to the safe, affordable and delicious range of food and drink that they have come to expect.

“Food is a matter of national security, so the results of this report are of central concern to businesses across the ‘farm to fork’ industries.

“It is only a matter of time before the uncertainty reported by businesses results in an irreversible exit of EU workers from these shores. This is a scenario that will hurt the UK culturally and economically.

“Without our dedicated and valued workforce, we would be unable to feed the nation.

“This is why it is imperative that we receive assurances from Government about their future, and that of our wider workforce.”