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Nigel Jenney, UK Fresh Produce Consortium

"Don’t blame the industry, Boris, what we need is your support"

An Andrew Marr interview with Boris Johnson, aired on Sunday, 3 October, revealed a prime minister who Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the UK’s Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) says “has fundamentally failed to understand the importance of our normally seamless food supply chain.”

When questioned about the current labor crisis that is disrupting the supply chain, Johnson reinforced his refusal to turn to migrant labor, saying “the country is going through a 'period of adjustment' to a higher-wage economy after Brexit. The way forward for our country is not to just pull the big lever marked ‘uncontrolled immigration'.” Yet the lack of workers has affected every aspect of our lives. 

Jenney has today responded, saying: “We are a highly productive, and highly competitive market, driven by consumer expectations of being able to obtain high-quality products at a reasonable price. This system is now seriously under threat.”

“What we’re requesting is that government supports and values the entire food supply chain, through a range of measures including a visa system during this period of transition. There’s no point in having lorry drivers who have nothing to deliver,” he continued.

Pressure on the supply chain
“The fallout from the pandemic, coupled with the many challenges that Brexit has brought about, will continue to affect the supply chain for many months, if not years, unless we can find solutions now,” Jenney said.

“This is beyond the industry’s making, it’s beyond our control. The food industry wants to provide a great service but it needs support to ensure there aren’t empty shelves for many months to come. The FPC has worked with its members to develop innovative new solutions for the industry. They lie in making agriculture ‘smarter’ by developing and adopting the new technologies and innovations that can dramatically enhance productivity and reduce its high labor demand and by making the various sectors more attractive to a new generation.”

Fresh blood in the industry
Jenney went on to broach the subject of bringing in much-needed fresh blood to the industry, calling it ‘an elephant in the room’ and re-affirming how the food-growing industry is desperately lacking a new generation of workers.

“FPC has been pro-actively looking at new ways to bridge the disconnect between the next generation of agricultural and horticultural workers and the perception of the industry as a whole. We believe we’ve found some solutions,” he explained.

“There needs to be a fundamental shift in the perception and overall infrastructure of our food supply system. We believe in educating the industry about how both agriculture and horticulture can be made smarter through the incorporation of technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics, and automation, along with the development of new growing systems and practices, all designed to promote long term sustainability,” he continued.

With this in mind, the consortium has developed two unique and ‘free to attend’ industry events. The new events, both of which will be jointly held at Lincolnshire Showground on 4 November have been developed in partnership with the University of Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology (LIAT). They each tackle different challenges faced by the industry in a unique way.

For more information:
Cristina Melenchon
Fresh Produce Consortium
Tel: +44 1733 405791 

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