Fresh produce could be left unharvested if labour solution is not found

by Peter Crowe

The British Growers Association has released new research into seasonal labour demand in the fresh produce industry. The annual labour survey is published for the first time in graphical form, and clearly shows that ‘seasonal labour’ is a misnomer when it comes to describing the overall demand cross the industry.

Jack Ward, Chief Executive of British Growers says: “When you see the demand for labour across the fresh produce industry laid out like this, it makes you realise that there are many parts of the industry which need labour all year around. If there is not a readily available supply, then we are going to have real problems growing, harvesting and packing many crops.

“Increasingly there are parts of the industry where we face the very real threat that crops could be left in the field because there is no one to harvest or pack them. Since the advent of the Living Wage many seasonal workers are finding that they reach the threshold of the amount they want to earn much quicker than before. In which case they go home, leaving employers with severe staff shortages.

“We urgently need a practical solution for seasonal working as part of the Brexit deal. Growing fresh produce is a long-term commitment and access to the labour is a critical part of the production equation. The ongoing lack of certainty is the last thing business needs if it is to make a success of Brexit. The date for the UKs exit from the EU is getting ever closer but we are still no closer to a solution.