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Job shortage puts harvest in jeopardy

Fruit and vegetable growers and meat producers across the country are warning of shortages as the labour needed for harvesting and food processing is in dangerously short supply.

A mixture of Covid restrictions, isolation rules and new immigration rules under Brexit has led to a shortage in labour across the agricultural sector and raising wages is doing little to ease the problem.

Competition for workers is so high that some companies have raised the wages by up to five percent and are offering sizeable bonuses if workers see the entire season through.

Quoted in the Farmers Guardian, Ali Capper, NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair, said wage rises were not the solution.

“We need an immigration policy that is fit for purpose and while our sector is lucky in that we have the permit scheme, it is not bringing us enough people and I can only see the EU picture getting worse,” she said, calling on the Government to make the Seasonal Agricultural Workers pilot scheme permanent to instil grower confidence.

“Anxiety levels are at the highest I have ever known them, and the lack of labour could decimate our industry as growers will not plan to produce the same volumes in the future to mitigate this risk.”

A cross-industry call has been sent to the Government asking for relaxation on restrictions on foreign workers, with one option a short term visa which would allow EU workers to be employed in the UK for a set period of time.

Speaking at the Great Yorkshire Show, Defra Secretary George Eustice said: “We are discussing across the Government at the moment what we might do next year and whether there should be a further extension of the SAWS pilot or whether indeed we should try to do a more permanent scheme but we are not in a position yet to make any final decisions.”

Image: Photo by Tim Mossholderon Unsplash