The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Independent review calls for more to be done to address labour shortages in the food supply chain

An independent review into labour shortages in the food chain has found that the industry currently faces difficulties in recruiting and retaining an adequate workforce. It attributes this challenge to “low unemployment rates, changes in labour market dynamics, and reduced access to workers from the European Union (EU)”.  It goes onto say that “overly bureaucratic and slow administration of visa applications during periods of stress and conflict have had a substantial impact.”  However, the report clearly sets out that the nature of this sector is largely rural which presents additional issues.  Recruitment is difficult due to the smaller size of the local labour pool compared to urban areas.  Limited or low-quality transport in rural areas is also cited as a factor, meaning many people eligible and willing to take this employment simply cannot get to their place of work without a car, something many people cannot afford. 

Cost of living is also highlighted as a challenge to retaining an adequate workforce. The report says that house prices in rural areas tend to be higher and suitable properties hard to come by.  One organisation invited to contribute to the report said, “rural infrastructure is not good enough to tempt people to move – transport links are poor, and accommodation can be in short supply and expensive.”

The consequences of these challenges are seen, the report says, in decreased productivity: “the UK area of fresh vegetables grown in the open fell to 112,000 hectares in 2021, down from 121,142 hectares in 2010, the lowest area of recent years.”  Certain organisations within the sector are trying to combat the situation with a range of measures and initiatives.  However, their message is clear: assistance and investment are required. 

The Farming Minster, Mark Spencer (Con, Sherwood) has welcomed the report and acknowledged more needs to be done:

“I know first-hand how rewarding a career in farming can be, and we will continue to do all we can to encourage greater take up of farming and food sector roles. Already, our New Entrant Support Scheme pilot incubators are nurturing new business ideas and we are supporting the establishment of The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture to improve the uptake of key skills for those entering the industry.

“We also need to develop more attractive opportunities for UK domestic workers and make greater use of apprenticeships, and we continue to work with industry and across government on these areas.

“We will look closely at the findings of the review and will set out our response in Autumn, as the Prime Minister confirmed at the recent Farm to Fork Summit.”


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