The NFU is writing to Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick amid concerns over visas for seasonal workers in the future. Growers are being encouraged to add their names to the letter.
British growers are being urged to add their name to an NFU letter to the Immigration Minister calling for reassurances on the Seasonal Workers Scheme in the future.
The letter, penned by NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw, asks for urgent clarity on the number of visas amid concerns that current government commitments will fall short of what is needed by the British horticulture sector.
It explains that securing sufficient seasonal labor remains an acute challenge for the sector, with NFU data showing that shortages peaked at 40% in the spring and have averaged 15% across the year to date.
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: "Soaring energy costs combined with a continued lack of people to pick crops are posing a serious threat to the future of the UK's fruit and vegetable industry.
"The news that the Seasonal Workers Scheme is guaranteed to 2024 was a welcome boost for growers last year. However, we remain concerned that the number of visas available are not sufficient to prevent further crop losses and a continued fall in UK production.
"We need urgent clarity on the scheme and a much more collaborative relationship between the Home Office and the NFU to find solutions."
In particular, the horticulture sector has been significantly impacted, with UK fruit and vegetables, plants, and flowers going unpicked – leading to a significant financial loss for British producers and nutritious food being wasted. While the government's own food strategy includes an ambition for growth in horticulture, domestic production is currently falling at a worrying rate and is way below its potential.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick MP has also been offered the opportunity to visit a farm to see the challenges first-hand as growers seek to work with the government to find solutions.