According to British farmers’ union NFU, more than 60 million pounds of fruit and vegetables were lost in the UK in the first half of the year due to labor shortages.
More than 60 million pounds (70 million euros) of fruit and vegetables were lost in the United Kingdom in the first half of the year for lack of workers to pick them, according to an estimate by the British agricultural union NFU (National Farmers ‘Union). These losses of “nutritious and quality food” are all the harder to cash in “at a time when families in the country are already struggling to make ends meet due to the soaring cost of living”, said lamented Tom Bradshaw, vice president of the NFU in a statement Monday.
According to the survey carried out by the union, 40% of the farmers questioned suffered crop losses due to a shortage of labor estimated at 14% of needs. 17% of recruited workers never showed up, while 9% left before the end of their contract. If British farms are struggling so hard to recruit, it is in particular because the hiring of European workers, who were once free to come and go, has been greatly complicated by Brexit.
And Ukrainian workers, who in recent years have represented the vast majority of seasonal workers in the country, are largely stuck at home by the war. As a result, British operators are calling on workers from further and further afield, Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Indonesia or even South Africa to fill difficult jobs that cannot find takers locally.
“At the same time, the ongoing drought and record high temperatures have created a really difficult environment for our fruit and vegetables to grow,” adds Tom Bradshaw, making it all the more crucial to be able to pick up the food produced. . To deal with this situation, the NFU calls in particular on the government to increase the number of visas available to meet the needs of the sector to avoid “this disastrous level of food waste next year”.
According to the union, nearly two-thirds of recruits in the first half of the year were hired through the seasonal worker visa regime, a third of whom had come before. Some 38,000 seasonal worker visas have been authorized for this year and the sector is applying for almost double that, to 70,000.