UK farms are hit by a big slump in seasonal workers
The number of seasonal workers coming to British farms is down by 17% on the levels which are needed to harvest this season's fruit and vegetables, the National Farmers' Union has warned.
A survey by the NFU of labour providers revealed they were unable to recruit sufficient numbers of workers, three-quarters of whom come from Romania and Bulgaria, for the busy harvest season.
The farming body called on Environment Secretary Michael Gove to provide reassurances to growers that there will be clarity on how farms will access a reliable and competent workforce both now and after Brexit.
There were more than 1,500 vacancies on British farms in May alone, a shortfall on recruitment targets of 17%, according to the survey which represents 30% of the 80,000-strong workforce and covers the period January to May.
The shortfall - at a time when the bulk of seasonal workers arrive - is much greater than for May last year, when only 143 roles were unfilled. It also revealed a drop in the proportion of workers who were returning having previously worked on British farms, down to 33%.