The UK’s immigration system is making labour shortages worse in the food and drink sector, according to Scotland’s salmon farmers.
Tavish Scott, chief executive of the producers’ organisation Salmon Scotland, has urged the UK Government to add fish processing to its shortage occupation list to make it easier for firms to recruit from the European Union.
In a letter to the UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, George Eustice, Mr Scott joined the chief executives of four other Scottish food and drink organisations in calling for the recommendations of a new report by Westminster’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to be urgently implemented.
These include a recommendation for the UK Government to work with industry leaders to address labour shortages, and to develop a long-term labour strategy.
The letter, signed by Salmon Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland, Seafood Scotland, Scotland Food & Drink, and National Farmers Union Scotland, warned that the Scottish food and drink industry is suffering from “acute labour shortages”.
The organisations wrote: “This labour force issue is affecting the ability of our producers and manufacturers to serve customers both at home and abroad, restricting growth and curbing exports.
“The committee makes a number of recommendations, including a call for government to work with industry to address labour shortages and develop a new, long-term strategy to ease the situation for years to come.
“We support the committee’s recommendations and call on you and your department to deliver the step change requested by the MPs.
“Our members have the ability to thrive and help the country recover from both the long-term effects of Covid and the additional costs of Brexit caused by non-tariff barriers.
“But, to do this, we need proper access to labour and this can only come with the help and support from the government.”
Scott said that fish processing, in the farm-raised salmon sector in particular, is suffering from a “labour squeeze.”
He commented: “We want to see more flexibility in the UK’s immigration policy, and a long-term strategy to ease this situation in the years to come.”