Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Farmers fear they could go out of business without help from Eastern European seasonal workers

Immigration is one of the key elements of Brexit, with the Prime Minister saying she cannot guarantee EU citizens will be allowed to stay once Britain leaves Europe.

Farmers in the East of England are concerned the refusal to guarantee their rights could affect affect production and ultimately see the price of the food on our plate go up.

Local growers fear they could go out of business without help from seasonal workers from Eastern Europe.

Farmers say thousands of thousands of seasonal workers are needed in the Anglia region. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Andy Allen's immediate worry is what Storm Doris might do to the poly tunnels protecting the asparagus on his Norfolk farm.

His longer term concern is how he'd begin to harvest his crop without the dozens of migrant workers he relies on every year.

The fear is, with Britain leaving the EU, what will happen to the thousands of seasonal workers needed in this region.

I can't pick this without the staff to do so, so I would not have a business. I would simply have to pack up.

That's not just me, that's the whole, fruit, vegetable industry in the UK. A lot of the processing, poultry processing, food processing.

We simply don't have a pool of local staff available for short periods of time, seven days a week, we have to pick this crop. It's just not there. We're 100% reliant.

– Andy Allen, asparagus farmer

Andy wants the Government to be aware of just how vital migrant workers are to this country.

A weak pound, low unemployment and fears among workers in Eastern Europe that they're no longer welcome in Britain, have made it a lot more difficult for farmers and growers to recruit the staff they rely on keep their businesses going.

Sever Ianc has been coming to the UK as a migrant worker for 12 years. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Andy also has to explain to his overseas workers that he doesn't know whether they will be able to make their annual visit in the future.

Sever Ianc, who's from Romania has been coming to the UK for 12 years.

It is good to come here because the salary in this country is a little bit poor, not like here but what we can do? We can't fight the Government from England. It's impossible.

– Sever Iancu, migrant worker
Potato farmer Andrew Wagstaff says he has huge concerns about the future. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Andrew Wagstaff, a potato farmer from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, also has huge concerns about the future.

He says his business couldn't survive without seasonal labour from Eastern Europe.

We can't find British people that'll do the work, and want the hours or the short notice that we can call upon these gangmasters to supply.

Without them, as an industry we will struggle immensely.

– Andrew Wagstaff, potato farmer
Environment Minister Andrea Leadsom was lobbied at the NFU annual conference. Credit: ITV News Anglia

At the National Farmers' Union annual conference, Environment Minister Andrea Leadsom was lobbied about the potential repercussions.

The British public expect high standards of the way farmers produce food.

It would be detrimental to farming and to the respect people show to British farmers should we import products into the UK that have been been produced to a much lower standard than's expected of British farmers.

– Meurig Raymond, President, National Farmers Union