The Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review of the Shortage Occupation list for 2020. It received a vast quantity of evidence from a wide range of industries including the food chain. It has now recognised some of these roles as vital.

Mark Harrison, policy manager for employment and access to labour at the Food and Drink Federation, said: “We are pleased that the MAC have recognised the challenges UK businesses face in recruiting vital skilled roles for the food chain such as food technologists, butchers, and maintenance engineers.

“Designating these roles as shortage occupations will support our members and the wider food chain to source the labour they need. We would also urge future reviews to look at the extent of shortages in RQF Level 2 ‘key worker’ roles, which in the food sector would include fork-lift drivers and food and drink process operatives.

“While a reduction in visa fees and salary thresholds for these roles is a welcome step, the Government need to go further and remove or reduce the Immigration Skills Charge for shortage roles. This would ensure they are affordable for all businesses, including SMEs.

“Instead of levying a blanket charge against employers with no clear link to any skills programme, the Government should work with affected sectors to support domestic skills development in areas identified as being in shortage by the MAC.

“The FDF is already promoting the domestic skills agenda in the food chain through our partnerships with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink and the National Centre for Excellence in Food Engineering, among others.

“We would also urge the Government to support our industry’s efforts to further upskill our workforce, including broadening the apprenticeship levy into a wider training levy.”