Growers are being urged to write to their MPs to explain the impact of seasonal labour shortages this year as uncertainty continues to cloud the issue and cause major concerns across the industry.
The NFU has developed a template letter to help companies lobby MPs, and is asking for help in highlighting the labour issue through wider awareness, as well as the union lobbying central government.
NFU horticulture and potatoes chair Ali Capper said there is a window of time between now and May 2018 for the government to take action ahead of next season.
“We’re urging members to write to their MPs and explain the impacts on their business of labour shortages this year, and problems with recruiting for next year,” she said.
The new follows comments over the weekend by Transport Secretary for State Chris Grayling, who was responding to industry warnings that food prices could rise under a no-deal Brexit. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: "What we will do is grow more here and buy more from around the world but that will mean bad news for continental farmers and that is why it will not happen - it is in their interests to reach a deal."
Although he mentioned farmers ‘growing more’, Grayling made no mention of the potentially severe labour shortages that would prevent growers from doing that.
Speaking at NFU Council last week, Capper said: “The fall in the value of sterling, the feeling amongst EU nationals that they are no longer welcome here, and competition for labour within Europe and other sectors of the economy have all added momentum to a gradual fall in the number of EU workers prepared to work in farming in the UK – and particularly in horticulture.
“Labour providers responding to the NFU’s monthly survey have reported shortages of up to 17 per cent this season, and the impacts are being felt on farm, as many of you will know.
“The NFU has been making the case to government for some time that seasonal labour isn’t a Brexit issue. Growers need reassurance from government that we will have access to sufficient numbers of workers next season, and beyond.
“The entire food industry is united in its stance on labour and has worked hard to ensure that the impact of a labour shortfall this year hasn’t hit the consumer – wages have increased, overtime has been worked and some crops have gone unharvested. I’m not sure we can guarantee the same for 2018.”