The NFU will be highlighting the horticulture sector’s ‘very specific’ needs for labour at the National Fruit Show in Kent this week.
The NFU said just days ago that access to labour is a key post-Brexit policy priority for the organisation.
The chairman for the NFU’s national horticulture board, Ali Capper, will be attending the event to speak with growers on this topic and other key industry concerns.
Ms Capper said: “The NFU has very specific needs for labour in agriculture and horticulture and we are already in discussions with government on this. Horticulture alone needs around 80,000 seasonal workers to hand-pick fruit and vegetable crops across the country. This is expected to rise to 95,000 by 2021 based on today’s growth projections.
“If there aren’t enough people to pick the crops when harvest is underway, valuable food crops could be left to rot in the fields. This could have devastating consequences for the public in terms of availability of fresh, British fruit and veg on supermarket shelves, and for the farming industry in terms of avoidable food waste and associated costs. This is why we are asking government to trial a scheme in 2017 to access seasonal workers.
“Post-Brexit there is now even more pressure to secure a flexible workforce which can be relied upon - one that guarantees that, come harvest, British fruit and veg makes it to the supermarket. We need a flexible permit scheme, accepting workers from both EU and non-EU countries.
“Sourcing labour isn’t a problem limited to the fruit and vegetable sector. There is a need for a flexible workforce across food and farming - an industry that is worth £108 billion to the nation’s economy. Workers from across the skill spectrum are needed throughout the sector; in livestock and poultry businesses to process and pack meat, cereals farmers need workers to weed crops and to drive complex machinery, dairy farmers need farm workers that have high levels of animal husbandry. Accessibility to the right labour force for the right job is a complex issue.”