Seasonal food producers, such as fruit and vegetable growers, have warned that next years harvest could be effected if the current seasonal workers’ pilot scheme is not expanded significantly.
According to the results of a survey by the National Farmers Union (NFU), nine out of 10 seasonal workers in 2020 were from the EU, despite a national campaign to encourage more UK residents to “Pick for Britain”.
The Seasonal Worker survey was completed by 244 growers who collectively recruited around 30,000 people, accounting for around half this year’s workforce.
As one commentator said, the situation is now “beyond urgent”, as growers would normally be recruiting now for next year but have yet to be told whether a new scheme to admit workers, after free movement from the European Union ends on 31 December, will be finalised by the Government.
Some growers are so concerned that they are considering moving production elsewhere or scaling their business back.
They are also concerned about relying on UK pickers, despite Environment Secretary George Eustice saying that the Government wants to challenge growers to make use of local labour.
Another area that is worrying farmers for next year is the potential lack of workers that may want to come to the UK as well. With a weak pound many workers are looking to Germany and the Netherlands for work meaning that by the time any decision may be made extending the scheme there may not be the workers available.
For help and advice on matters relating to the agriculture sector, contact our expert team at Milsted Langdon today.