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Business chief fears south Lincolnshire's post-Brexit labour shortage could lead to empty supermarket shelves and higher prices

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Shoppers could be faced with empty supermarket shelves and higher food prices if south Lincolnshire’s labour shortage continues - according to business chiefs.

Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce says job shortages in our area have reached a ‘critical’ stage and need urgent attention from the Government.

It believes the lack of labour makes it even more important that companies ensure their overseas employees have signed up for the right to remain in the UK - with the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme looming today.

Simon Beardsley, Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce (48775410)
Simon Beardsley, Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce (48775410)

Chamber chief executive Simon Beardsley said: “It is vital that people sign up for the settlement scheme - labour is reaching a critical point in south Lincolnshire with shortages across the supply chains, farms, packhouses as well as logistics businesses.

“Many migrant workers and drivers have returned home and for a number of reasons are not keen to come back to the UK to work. Haulage companies, for example, are being forced to shuffle deliveries to supermarket distribution centres due to a driver shortage, we really need Government to wake up to the crisis - it’s not only crucial that we allow workers to stay, but we also need more of them.

“This major labour shortage is likely to get worse and impact on food on our supermarket shelves and inevitably lead to higher prices.”

Mr Beardsley’s comments echo fears raised by South Holland grower Sue Lamb last week - and district NFU secretary Andrew Cross’ views in his Word on the Ground column.

Last week marked five years since the Brexit referendum - in which South Holland had the second highest Leave vote in the country.

Earlier this year we revealed that a border facility had been set up at Freshlinc to make it easy to carry out customs checks and official inspections in our area - but the Chamber says businesses have still suffered from added red tape.

Mr Beardsley said: “Businesses in South Holland are resilient and progressive, but with longer lead times, less cooperation from EU countries and labour shortages, these are challenging times.

“The new Border Control Post at Spalding is a fantastic initiative; however, members are restricting exports to Northern Ireland and trade with EU countries continues to be a challenge.

“Transitioning produce from third countries through the UK to the EU was seamless until 1st January, now it is virtually impossible and UK import/export businesses are buying from third countries and exporting directly to the EU missing the UK out altogether; this has obvious repercussions for the local economy.

“It’s important to add that the paperwork is onerous, businesses have not only had to get used to new ways of working, but the complexity and sheer volume has been in excess of what many expected.

“To comply there has to be added cost. That cost in many cases have been met by local businesses, as they have not been able to pass it on, but this ultimately will eat away at margins and adds to future price pressures.”

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