Migrants' return 'threatens food industry'

FOOD and drink manufacturers in the east of England have warned that a fall in numbers of migrant workers is threatening the stability of the region s £8.8 billion industry. A new study published by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, repor

FOOD and drink manufacturers in the east of England have warned that a fall in numbers of migrant workers is threatening the stability of the region's £8.8 billion industry.

A new study published by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, reports that a quarter of food and drink companies in the east region now employ workers from abroad, with an average of four employed per company.

But the report also found evidence that, after a period of rapid increase sparked by the admission of eight eastern European countries to the EU in 2004, numbers of migrant workers are now falling, causing a headache for companies that rely on them as a labour source.

There are estimated to be around 3,000 A8 migrant workers in the Huntingdonshire economy.

Half of the employers surveyed said low numbers of migrant workers would leave them with job vacancies, while just under a third said that it would lead to skills shortages and a drop in productivity. Overall, 73 per cent of companies said employing migrant workers had a positive impact on their business.

The study suggested that the main reason for declining numbers of migrant workers was the improving economies of A8 group of eastern European countries admitted to the EU in 2004. This is reported to be particularly true of Poland, which accounts for half of all migrant workers employed in the UK food and drink industry.