British crops could be left unharvested if foreign labour is restricted, following the recent Brexit vote the National Farmers Union has said.
The UK’s exit from the European Union now creates uncertainty for farmers and growers, leaving them unsure how to plan for the future, according to Capper.
Speaking at an event in Kent, NFU horticulture board chairman Ali Capper said that the decision to leave the EU placed huge uncertainty over whether the industry would be able to employ non-UK workers.
“They are crucial in picking, grading and packing the crops that provide consumers with the range of quality and affordable British horticultural produce they’ve come to expect and enjoy,” Capper said.
“It is not unusual for horticultural producers to be planning crops 10 years in advance, yet these crops cannot be produced without good labour supply,” she said.
Capper urged the UK Government to work closely with the NFU, and its members, to solve a potential labour problem that could result in unharvested crops and placing horticultural businesses in danger of closing down.
“Post-Brexit there is the likelihood that there will be a more restrictive immigration process in place. Effectively this could end the free movement of labour from the European Economic Area,” she said.
We need to be prepared to explore all the possible options in maintaining access to horticulture’s vital labour supply.
Capper said that a solution could involve some form of visa-restricted access to labour, but advises that an investigation into the specifics is needed to ensure the industry has access to the workforce it needs.
“What is also clear is that we are not just talking about access to seasonal labour – some sectors and businesses are currently reliant on non-UK workers in full-time roles, year-round,” Capper said.
Capper has asked to meet with Brexit Minister David Davis, to discuss how horticulture and other farming sectors are reliant on non-UK based labour.