A Norfolk farmer has left 10 acres of asparagus unpicked as he was unable to get workers to harvest the crop.
Andy Allen of Portwood Farm near Attleborough told the BBC that as a result he had lost £50,000 and would not be planting any more of the crop. “We waited four years to get a harvest from this particular field and so to not have anything from it at the end of the day is pretty demoralising,” he said. “We would normally need between 90 and 95 staff. At the maximum we had 75, and during a lot of the season we were dealing with 65. We would have expected to harvest 150-250 tonnes this year. We are 30% down.”
He said that claims in the new Government Food Strategy that it wanted to increase the production of homegrown fresh produce showed ministers are “in a cuckoo world.”
Charles Hesketh, NFU regional policy manager for East Anglia, warned that the lack of labour is actually causing growers to produce less. “I was talking to a guy who was growing a lot on the coast of Suffolk,” he said. “His vegetable production has been scaled back 50% this year and this is solely because he can’t take the risk of not having enough pickers and packers to bring in the crop. We are really worried and so are our members, and it’s frustrating.”