According to the National Farmers Union (NFU), a loss of labour could have a devastating impact on the UK’s horticulture industry, placing huge uncertainty over whether growers would be able to access EU workers.
As a result, NFU horticulture board chairman Ali Capper has called on the Brexit minister, David Davis, to meet with members as soon as possible to discuss how the potential labour problem could be solved.
Speaking at a Fruit Focus industry event, she said: “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,”
“We need to be prepared to explore all the possible options in maintaining access to horticulture’s vital labour supply. This could involve some form of visa-restricted access to labour. We need to investigate the specifics to ensure we have the workforce this industry 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.”
In a letter addressed to the Brexit minister, David Davis, Capper says that EU migrant workers are essential to the UK’s horticulture industry, with approximately 30,000 workers helping to harvest crops each year. Overall, this sector contributes approximately £3 billion to the UK economy per year.
Read the full letter here.