The National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned that routine food waste on farms in the UK is rising because of a lack of workers and that the results could be “catastrophic”.

Sadly, as the peak season for harvesting soft fruit and vegetables approaches, some producers fear they will have to leave produce to rot because they do not have the labour to pick it.

Their concerns are backed up by a recent survey from the British Berry Growers Association, which found that annual waste that could be directly attributed to a lack of access to pickers had almost doubled from 2020, when it was £18.7 million to £36.5 million in 2021.

Meanwhile anecdotal evidence points to similar waste, with one grower saying they had not been able to harvest 2 million iceberg lettuces because there were not enough people to pick them.

This wastage could lead to some farms having to close and it is likely that the wastage could be repeated for fruit and other produce if something is not done to release more seasonal worker visas.

Although the Government has recently reported an increase in the number of seasonal worker visas from 30,000 to 40,000, the NFU’s estimate of the number needed is 70,000. Farmers and other producers now fear that there will be a shortfall for next year’s harvest too.

However, in response to their concerns, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said that labour shortages are affecting countries around the world and that the Government is working to encourage people to take up jobs in the farming sector.

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Posted in Agriculture, Blog.