More than a third of food businesses operating in the United Kingdom have said they would become "unviable" without access to workers from the European Union.
The figures, taken from a survey of members in organisations spanning the entire food and drink supply chain and presented in a new report, show "a rapidly approaching workforce shortage and skills gap".
Almost one in three (31%) United Kingdom food businesses have had European Union nationals leave since the Brexit vote in June 2016, whilst 47% said European Union nationals in their workforce are considering leaving.
31% of businesses surveyed had seen EU nationals leave in the time since the EU referendum, while 17% of respondents said they would look to relocate overseas if they had no access to EU nationals.
In response to these findings, the survey reports some key recommendations to the British government to help alleviate the problem.
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The trade bodies, also including the BRC and the NFU, called for short-term action including legislation to secure the rights of EEA nationals now in the United Kingdom, and recognising the strategic importance of the food and drink supply chain.
Ian Wright, FDF director general, said: "The UK food and drink supply chain ensures consumers have access to the safe, affordable and delicious range of food and drink they have come to expect".
In a fresh study released Thursday, the UK's Food & Drink Federation warned the country's 110-billion-pound (128-billion-euro, $151-billion) farm-to-fork sector could face serious problems should the current Brexit negotiations not result in a good deal for European Union nationals working in Britain.
For long term goals, the survey calls for investment in skills provision for the food and drink supply chain; support of access to hard-to-reach labour market solutions, and allowing benefits system to make flexible working easier. "This is a scenario that will hurt the United Kingdom culturally and economically". "It is vital that this change is carefully managed through an orderly transition".
"Without our dedicated and valued workforce we would be unable to feed the nation". "This is why it is imperative that we receive assurances from Government about their future, and that of our wider workforce".
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