Defra updates on the independent review of labor shortages in the food supply chain


Defra announced today that John Shropshire will chair the independent review of labor shortages in the food supply chain. Mr Shropshire is an industry veteran, who left his role as CEO of leading horticultural producer G’s Fresh Group last year.

It will be supported by a pool of experts drawing on expertise from all aspects of the farming, fishing, processing and manufacturing supply chain.

As outlined in the government’s food strategy, the government recognizes that the sector cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour, particularly in light of global pressures elsewhere. The independent review of labor shortages in the food supply chain will examine the challenges food and agriculture businesses face in recruiting and retaining the labor they need and provide recommendations to the industry and government. The review will focus on the roles of automation, domestic employment and migration routes.

Today’s announcement builds on government action to help farmers meet the current challenges they face, including advancing direct payments to farmers to help them manage their cash flow , which are now paid in two instalments. Additionally, the government has launched a review of supply chain fairness in the pig sector and has committed to respond to a review exploring how to accelerate the development and adoption of automation in horticulture .

The final report will be published in 2023 and the government response will follow.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

I would like to thank John Shropshire for agreeing to lead this independent review into labor shortages in the food supply chain. His industry knowledge and experience make him an ideal candidate to chair the exam.

As labor shortages affect countries around the world, we have already increased the number of visas available through the seasonal worker route to 40,000 and extended it to include poultry and ornamental horticulture, and we strive to encourage people to take up jobs in the sector. .

Labor is a key issue for UK farmers and agriculture and this report will give the Government key insight into how to tackle it in the future.

John Shropshire, Chair of the Independent Labor Shortages Review, said:

Our agriculture and food supply sectors face multiple challenges, and labor shortages contribute to this. This review will help us understand how we can address labor shortages and boost productivity in the food supply chain.

I have worked in the horticultural industry for many years and together with the group of experts supporting the review I hope we can come up with clear recommendations that will have a long term impact on reducing pressure on farmers and improving food security.

The government is encouraging all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers by providing training, career options, pay rises and investing in increased automation technology. To help with these efforts, Defra is working with industry and the Department for Work and Pensions to raise awareness among UK workers of career opportunities in the food and drink sector.

More information


  • John Shropshire OBE – John Shropshire was CEO of G’s Fresh Group until 2021 and is Chairman of G’s Fresh Limited. He joined the family farming and marketing business, founded by his father Guy Shropshire, after completing a BSc Hons in Agriculture at Newcastle University in 1976. G’s Fresh Group is a leading UK horticultural company which won several national industry awards recognizing his progress. in technical and product innovation, exports and environmental management. He is also co-chairman of the Modern Slavery Intelligence Network (MSIN), a non-profit organization set up to share intelligence to help disrupt modern slavery and labor exploitation within the UK food industry.

Expert Group:

  • Fiona Dawson CBE – Fiona Dawson is a non-executive director at Marks and Spencer, The Lego Group and The Kerry Group. She has also served as Global President of Mars Food and Multisales, President of the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), and Vice President of the Food and Drink Federation. In 2021, Fiona obtained a CBE for services to women and the economy.
  • Martin Ford – Martin Ford is Technical and Sustainability Director at Greencore UK, a leading convenience food manufacturer. He previously worked for a number of food companies including Northern Foods and Morrisons.
  • Mark Greet – Mark Greet ran Falfish (a Cornish wholesaler and processor of wild and farmed fish), where he served as managing director until 2021.
  • William Kendall – William Kendall is a conventionally and organically grown food entrepreneur in East Anglia. He led the acquisition of embryonic New Covent Garden Soup Company, Green & Black’s and most recently Cawston Press brands and their successful growth strategies. He co-founded an early-stage venture capital fund and remains committed to venture capital investing. Over the years, he has taken on board responsibilities in industries as diverse as online grocery, hospitality, natural building materials and garden centers. William advises a number of family businesses: he is a director of the Grosvenor Estate and the Gascoyne Cecil Estate, both of which have significant agricultural interests, and he is a director of Samworth Brothers, one of the world’s largest fresh food manufacturers from the United Kingdom.
  • Dr David Llewellyn ​CBE – David Llewellyn is the former Vice-Chancellor of Harper Adams University, a position he held from 2009 to 2021. He is currently retired. He was also a founding member of the Skills Development Council which helped establish the Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH). He received a CBE in the 2022 New Year’s Honors for his services to higher education, agriculture and rural industries.
  • Helen Sisson – Helen Sisson is a Group Technical Director at 2 Sisters Food Group, a food manufacturer with a strong presence in poultry, chilled foods and baked goods. She has over 30 years of food manufacturing experience having worked for food companies such as Greencore, Sutherland, Hazelwood Foods and before that in the dairy sector. Helen currently sits on a number of industry panels, including as a member of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) International Advisory Board and the IGD Technical Leadership Forum. Helen is also a non-executive director of Campden BRI and a trustee of the charity FareShare.

The full list of sectors examined by the review is as follows:

  • Agricultural sectors including: hogs, eggs, poultry, red meat, dairy, arable and edible horticulture
  • Primary processing, including: meat processing and seafood processing
  • Food and Beverage Manufacturing

We plan to release more details about the review in due course.


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