On top of labour shortages, uncertainty over the UK’s future relations with the EU is also discouraging farmers from making investments, industry leaders have said.
According to the National Union of Farmers (NFU) the number of seasonal workers from EU countries has dropped by 17% this year, leaving thousands of jobs unfilled. The weak pound and changing perceptions of the UK as a destination for migrant workers following the Brexit vote are among the reasons for the decline.
Every year, British farms employ around 80,000 fruit pickers, many of whom are come from the EU’s eastern member states. The fruit industry finds it hard to attract British labourers because the jobs are poorly paid and the farms are often in areas of sparse population, such as East Anglia, or areas of low unemployment, such as the South East.
Just 14 of the 13,400 fruit pickers recruited in the first five months of 2017 were British, according to the NFU.