The National Farmers Union (NFU) has urged the Government to address what could be a ‘significant shortage’ of agriculture workers post-Brexit.
According to the NFU’s latest Vision for the Future of Farming report, the supply of seasonal workers for the next two seasons is now in jeopardy. The number of seasonal workers coming to work on British farms this year has already dropped by 17%.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “It is crucial that the Government addresses these concerns immediately to ensure that farming has access to a competent and reliable workforce, now and post-Brexit.”
To address the issue, the NFU has suggested the Government adopt a new immigration policy that would allow British farms the flexibility to appoint both seasonal and permanent workers.
“A solution, such as a suite of visa or permit schemes, is urgently needed to avoid losing a critical number of workers that could jeopardise future harvests and food production”, commented Mr Raymond.
The complex nature of oversees recruitment also makes it more difficult for farmers.
“Recruiting overseas workers is not something that can be done instantly. It takes time for businesses to recruit and for seasonal work they typically plan nine months in advance,” added Mr Raymond.
The report also expresses serious concerns about the industry’s ability to maintain an adequate number of permanent workers.
Uncertainty surrounding Brexit has lead to some workers facing unpredictable futures.
As many agricultural workers hail from EU member states, the NFU has urged the Government to clarify its position on EU nationals living and working in the UK.
Mr Raymond said: “The forthcoming Immigration Bill must recognise the importance of migration for certain sectors and Government must recognise the strategic importance of the UK farming industry as the bedrock of the UK’s food and drink industry, worth £109 billion to the economy.
“The NFU would like to see the Government consult extensively with the farming industry on this issue to ensure a solution is reached and as soon as possible.”