An NFU letter has been sent to The Times in response to a front page story on 16 November, ‘Record number of EU workers in Britain despite Brexit vote’.
The article refers to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which shows that the number of EU citizens working in the UK has risen to a record high, despite last year’s referendum:
We still face a significant challenge in finding competent and reliable people to work on British farms despite the number of EU citizens working in Britain reaching a record high.
The ONS data on EU citizens that your article refers to on the front page yesterday (Record number of EU workers in Britain despite Brexit vote - 16 Nov) doesn’t account for seasonal workers that come to the UK for less than 12 months – these make up the majority of the workforce.
This is where fruit, veg and flowers growers in particular are already experiencing real difficulty. Our latest survey of recruiters in this area shows a worker shortage of 29% in September, raising the average shortfall for the year to 11%.
The British farming sector needs commitments from Government that, where needed, there will be sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers from outside the UK in the run up to the UK leaving the EU and beyond. The food and farming sector, worth £112 billion, provides the raw ingredients that feed the nation and there must be recognition of its importance to the UK economy.
Farmer from Wiltshire and NFU Deputy President