Brexit uncertainties are forcing the UK’s vital migrant labour force to look for work opportunities in other countries causing concern in the horticultural industry. Statistics show there were around 67,000 seasonal migrant workers employed in the UK’s agricultural industry in 2013, most of who worked on fruit farms.
The horticulture industry in the UK is worth over £3bn but growers fear their incomes could be hit hard if the issue of migrant labour is not sorted out post-election and post Brexit.
One of the largest suppliers of farm labour in the UK is Hops Labour Solutions based in Kenilworth who said the migrant workers are just not arriving in the UK. John Hardman, a director with Hops, said: “We have got growers with huge crops and we have taken orders for staff, but the migrant workers are just not arriving. Last year the industry had considerable shortages at peak season, and we took on many short orders, but this year we are only at the start of soft fruit, and we are already unable to supply. We are being told that nothing will happen until after the election. At the moment, the approach by government seems apathetic to this very serious situation,” he said.
It is Mr Hardman’s opinion that a decrease in the value of sterling coupled with the view that the UK is not a welcoming place since the Brexit vote, that is keeping the migrant workers away. He also cites a perception that other countries provides better working conditions and pay rates as another reason that is leaving his company with “a huge shortage of staff.”
According to a number of reports strawberry farmers in the UK are currently finding it tough to secure enough workers to ensure their fresh crop is harvested.
By Chris McCullough