Shortage of labour delaying harvest of ready crops, says farmers’ union

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A farmers’ union has reported that lack of labour is delaying the harvest of ready crops that might lead to further shortage as reports of unpicked ripe fruit and vegetables are coming from across the country.

UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU)- a 55,000 members-strong representative body for agriculture and horticulture in England and Wales- said on Wednesday (25) that they have been receiving reports of unpicked fruits and vegetables which are not being harvested due to acute labour shortage in the country.

Tom Bradshaw, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said: “Earlier in July, we know Barfoots [a farming company] on the south coast near Chichester had courgettes they couldn’t harvest because they didn’t have enough labour. There is a pepper grower down there who could only pick their peppers every 11 days instead of every three because of labour shortages.”

Since most of the farm’s seasonal workers in the UK usually come from the EU, particularly Romania and Bulgaria, many farmers are reportedly blaming Brexit for this year’s staff shortages.

Although farms can still recruit horticulture workers who can gain permits to come to the UK through the government’s seasonal workers pilot scheme, farmers are still reportedly complaining that the tender process for the two additional licensed operators – who recruit workers and arrange permits – was concluded too late, something which is affecting the crops this year.

Bradshaw added that not just crops, but the problem of the labour shortage is also crippling animal farms.

“We’ve got big issues with pigs backing up on a farm because slaughterhouses are only operating four days a week because they haven’t got enough butchers to process the pork. We’ve got dairy farmers that are really struggling to recruit the workforce they need, in Wales and in Bath,” The Guardian quoted Bradshaw in a report.

As per reports, Britain’s meat processing industry, which is said to be two-thirds staffed by non-UK workers, is currently missing about 14,000 people out of a total of 95,000 employed in the sector owing to Brexit and Covid.

If the situation does not improve during the labour-intensive period, the industry might end up being short of 25,000 workers, according to Nick Allen, chief executive of the industry body, the British Meat Processors Association.