NFU issues food industry worker access warning
Published:  11 July, 2017

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned the government there may be a “significant shortage of people to work on Britain’s farms” if it does not address growing concerns over access to workers. 

The NFU’s Vision for the Future of Farming report has stated that the supply of seasonal workers for the next two seasons is now in jeopardy and that the number of seasonal workers coming to work on British farms this year has already dropped 17%.

The report said an immigration policy needed to be created to offer British farms flexible solutions for recruiting both seasonal and permanent overseas workers, with a focus on a competent and reliable workforce.
Meurig Raymond, NFU president, said: “It is crucial that the government addresses these concerns immediately to ensure that farming has access to a competent and reliable workforce, now and post-Brexit.

“A solution, such as a suite of visa or permit schemes, is urgently needed to avoid losing a critical number of workers that could jeopardise future harvests and food production.

“Recruiting overseas workers is not something that can be done instantly. It takes time for businesses to recruit and for seasonal work they typically plan nine months in advance.

“The supply of seasonal workers for the 2018 and 2019 seasons is already in danger and government must, as a priority, establish a system to enable sufficient recruitment of seasonal labour before the UK leaves the EU.”

The report also highlighted concerns about the industry’s ability to maintain an adequate number of permanent workers. Many come from EU member states and now face an uncertain status following Brexit.

The NFU is calling on the government to provide “urgent clarity” on the status of EU nationals living and working in the UK, given the many permanent workers in the agri-food sector.