Fonterra chairman Peter McBride says the co-operative ended the 2021 financial year in a strong position on several fronts – financial results, strategy implementation and relationship with farmer owners.
This follows a report commissioned by food and farming stakeholders that highlights an average vacancy rate of 13% and estimates there are more than 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses.
The report highlights the impact the pandemic and the UK's post-Brexit immigration policy is having on the sector's ability to recruit key workers.
NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw says for the past 18 months, food and farming businesses have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full of nutritious and affordable food.
But as the new report demonstrates, businesses throughout the supply chain in a wide variety of roles are really feeling the impacts of the workforce shortages.
"Farm businesses have done all they can to recruit staff domestically, but even increasingly competitive wages have had little impact because the labour pool is so limited - instead only adding to growing production costs," says Bradshaw.
"It is simplistic to argue that the end of furlough will see many more people meeting this shortfall. Furloughed workers are concentrated in urban areas and not where many agri-food roles are located.
"A solution to this crisis will need the right people with the right skills and training available in rural areas where many roles are based.
"A short term Covid-19 Recovery Visa, alongside a permanent Seasonal Workers Scheme, would be an effective and, frankly, vital route to help the pressing needs of the industry today."