Faced with labour shortages as high as 40 per cent in first half of year, NFU is gathering evidence to help expand Seasonal Worker Scheme in 2023

Many UK growers are facing serious labour shortages this season

Many UK growers are facing serious labour shortages this season

Image: NFU

With seasonal labour shortages reaching record levels in 2022, NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett has called on members to fill out a mid-season labour survey to help secure an expanded Seasonal Worker Scheme in 2023.

The NFU was instrumental in persuading the government to expand the current scheme to 30,000 and subsequently 40,000 visas, and Emmett said it showed “the strength of the NFU as a highly influential organisation”.

The fresh produce industry’s Seasonal Worker Scheme is the only ‘low skilled’ visa programme in the government’s post-Brexit immigration system.

The union’s horticulture and potato grower members are now being asked to complete a survey to provide the NFU with the evidence needed to secure a further expansion in 2023.

Emmett wrote on the NFU website: “To be clear, an expansion is absolutely critical. In 2022, we’ve had reports of shortages as high as 40 per cent in the first half of the year, and millions of pounds of crops being wasted.

“The level of ‘returnees’ continues to drop, and the motivations of workers are shifting, both of which mean we need more people to deliver the same output as before.

“If we cannot evidence these impacts from 2022, we have no chance of expanding the scheme beyond the current 30,000 (plus 10,000 ‘if there is a need’).

“At the end of last year, the NFU predicted a shortfall of as many as 15,000 workers in 2022. A scheme of 55,000 would therefore be needed to ensure we didn’t have shortages. I suspect we are quite close to the truth. But we cannot lobby using estimates, we can only lobby using facts.”

He added: “Your information is collected with complete anonymity, and we only provide national, not individual, data to government. Hundreds of members fill in our mid-season and end-of-season surveys each year, but we have thousands of horticulture and potato grower members.”

NFU horticulture and potato grower members can fill out the survey online here, and it takes just 3-10 minutes to complete depending on the answers provided.

Those who participate will be invited to enter a prize draw to win one of two £25 Marks & Spencer gift cards if they submit their responses by 24 July 2022.

The survey is undertaken in line with the Market Research Society Code of Conduct and responses will be aggregated and analysed anonymously.