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Tonnes of British-grown fruit wasted over shortages of EU workers amid no deal Brexit fears

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

ITV News has figures showing tonnes of food is being wasted, as a shortage of farm workers means some UK crops are not being harvested.

Seasonal migrants from the EU are staying away, fearing a no deal Brexit.

The industry blames the government’s failure to allow more agricultural workers from outside the EU.

We filmed at a fruit farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire, where 87,000 punnets of raspberries were wasted in just a fortnight. It's because they are short of 100 pickers - the majority of seasonal agricultural workers come from Eastern Europe.

Fears about Brexit are one of the major reasons so many are now staying away, but a fall in the value of the pound and improving job conditions in their own countries are compounding this growing problem.

  • Hannah Trefgarne, manager of a fruit farm in Herefordshire, on the challenges she's facing

Figures we’ve obtained from National Farmers' Union of England and Wales (NFU) show:

  • Between January and August, 3,602 farm vacancies went unfilled - 10% of the seasonal workforce.
  • In August, that shortfall reached 17.6%
  • One farming employment agency told us it is down 27% - and predicts 60% by October
  • Ramona Fatul, fruit farm Packhouse Manager explains why fewer workers are heading to the UK

Under a government pilot scheme, only 2,500 seasonal agricultural workers are being allowed from non-EU countries.

The National Farmers Union is calling for the numbers allowed to be dramatically increased rapidly.

It says that without workers, many farms will have no business. Already we are losing out on great British produce and the winter harvest is now just round the corner.

A shortage of farm workers means some UK crops are not being harvested. Credit: .

A Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) spokesperson told us: “EU citizens can continue to come to the UK for work in 2019 and 2020, regardless of whether the UK reaches a deal with the EU.

"This includes for seasonal work on farms and in food businesses. The seasonal workers pilot is not designed to meet the full labour needs of the horticultural sector.

"Rather, we are seeking to evaluate the immigration pilot’s ability to assist in alleviating labour shortages during peak production periods.”