Chronic labour shortages in the food and farming sector could see food prices continue to rise, according to MPs.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report – devised by six Tory and four Labour MPs along with one SNP colleague – said that as of August last year the sector had “potentially in excess of 500,000 job vacancies”.

It found evidence of pressure and shortages before the outbreak of war in Ukraine had caused the sector to experience “even greater pressure”.

“The evidence we have taken leaves us in no doubt about the seriousness of the issues facing the food and farming sector caused by labour shortages,” wrote the study’s authors.

“These include food security, animal welfare and the mental health of those working in the sector.

“In contrast, the Government has not demonstrated a strong understanding of these issues, and even on occasion sought to pass the blame onto the sector on the basis of incorrect information about its own immigration system.

“The Government must radically shift its attitude and work together with the sector to devise solutions that speedily help address the problems it faces, in the short, medium and long-term to help the UK’s food industry and enable it to thrive.

“Failure to do so risks shrinking the sector and leading to higher food inflation at the price of the UK’s competitiveness, thereby making the country more reliant on food imports as we export our food production capacity — as well as the jobs it supports — abroad.”

Responding to the report, NFU President Minette Batters said: "Today’s report from the Efra committee backs up the NFU’s long-standing call for a more enabling immigration policy which mitigates against the crippling labour shortages and structural issues that have existed throughout the food supply chain for many months."

Mrs Batters continued: "To ensure stability in domestic food production, the government needs to act urgently to give farmers and growers the confidence they need to invest in domestic production and enable British food and farming to thrive.

"The NFU, alongside the whole food supply chain, continues to seek a review of the current immigration system, including the Shortage Occupation List and Seasonal Worker Scheme as recommended by the Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) 20 months ago.

"This would help ensure that the labour needs of the food supply chain are met and help to shore up the estimated 500,000 vacancies left unfilled across the food and farming industry," she said.

"These vacancies threaten our own UK food security, and our ability to contribute to the nation’s economy through increased exports."