Norfolk's farming leaders warned that expanding a seasonal workers visa scheme is not enough to fill a shortfall that is already leaving crops unpicked and wasted. The government has announced an additional 8,000 fruit and vegetable pickers and 2,000 poultry workers will be given a route into the country amid industry warnings of a food waste "crisis".
The plans were included in this week's new national food strategy, increasing the number of temporary visas available for foreign seasonal agricultural workers from 30,000 to 40,000.
Edp24.co.uk reported on Norfolk county chairman for the National Farmers' Union Jamie Lockhart welcoming the announcement - but said many farms are still struggling to recruit enough workers after the post-Brexit change in immigration rules.
Farmer from near Attleborough loses £50,000 due to lack of labor
Norfolk grower Andy Allen couldn't get an adequate number of pickers this season. This meant that a 10-section of the land field had been left unpicked, costing him £50,000 worth of asparagus. Growers have been hit by the deficiency of EU laborers after Brexit, the deficiency of Ukrainian part-time employees, and a set number of unfamiliar specialist visas.
According to bolnews.com, the May 2022 Food Labor Market Survey viewed that 49% of cultivators and food producers had decreased their results because of an absence of laborers, while 77% of organizations were encountering deficiencies of low and incompetent specialists.
UK farmers look farther afield to replace Ukrainian laborers
Ukrainians received about 67% of Britain's 30,000 seasonal visas for farm work last year, but that percentage is falling as the government in Kyiv enlists people to fight in the war. With crops ripening, British growers are turning to countries such as Tajikistan, Moldova, and Nepal to make up the difference, but that may not be as simple as it sounds, according to a report by London-based charity Work Rights Centre.
The extra costs of training new workers from further afield will add pressure to food prices already approaching record highs globally. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is struggling to contain a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by soaring costs for fuel and food.