2 Sisters founder warns of “worst food shortages in 75 years”
Ranjit Singh Boparan, founder and president at 2 Sisters Food Group, says the current challenges facing the food sector are the most difficult he has ever seen.
Boparan claims that there will be empty shelves and panic buying among consumers unless ‘critical issues’ threatening the UK food supply chain are resolved.
“No-one could possibly have predicted that this toxic cocktail would come together at this time,” Boparan said. “It started with the pandemic – and in the last week or so with ‘pingdemic’, but since May this year the operating environment has deteriorated so profoundly I can see no other outcome than major food shortages in the UK. Supply of chicken and turkey is under threat. Our retail partners and the wider supply chain have worked together closer than ever before to ensure we retain food supply and this is of huge credit to everyone. But we are at crisis point.”
The key challenges that Boparan claimed are posing the biggest challenges to his business and food sector are:
- Security of the food supply – Brexit has acutely reduced available workers across the food sector. 2 Sisters has seen 15% labour shortages on average for its 16,000-strong workforce this year
- Unsustainable operating environment – Ingredient and wage inflation has driven up costs
- No ‘freedom day’ for 2 Sisters – Rules around self-isolation will continue at the company in order to keep workers safe, despite the Government lifting restrictions
- Brexit – Increased complexity and administration will, Boparan said, continue indefinitely.
“We are operating in a framework that’s complete madness and the Government needs to be called out for sticking their heads in the sand,” Boparan said. “‘Pingdemic’ is not the issue for us. There are fundamental structural changes going on here that need sorting. Why is the Government still paying furlough to around two million people with the economy essentially open and yet we have an on-going labour crisis? Why is it not reclassifying our frontline workers to the correct status so we have a corridor open for EU workers into the UK? Why is it not allowing for key workers in the food industry who are double vaccinated to continue their work when they are ‘pinged’?
“The Government needs to act immediately if it wants to avoid the most serious food shortages that this country has seen in over 75 years. Not acting would be irresponsible.”
He described these obstacles as “era-defining challenges” and called on the Government to support the sector.
“Entry level – that’s broadly unskilled – roles (requiring a Level 2 qualification) are where the sector is facing greatest difficulty,” he said. “Poultry workers should be exempt from this and Government needs to think again on the entry thresholds for salaries and skills.
“What needs to happen is an entry route should be plotted so workers face minimal administrative hurdles to get through to support businesses like ours.
“We also need recognition from the entire supply chain – that’s our suppliers, customers and ultimately the end consumer – that without the correct level of support, we are potentially facing a food crisis in the UK like we’ve never seen before.”