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12 December 2017 | Online since 2003


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17 November 2017 10:47:20 |Crops and Cereals,Government,News,NFU

Farmers facing difficulty recruiting despite record number of EU workers


Record number of EU nationals are working in UK, but farming industry still faces "significant challenge" in finding reliable workers

Record number of EU nationals are working in UK, but farming industry still faces "significant challenge" in finding reliable workers

Official figures show there is a record number of EU workers in the UK but farmers are still short of seasonal workers, the NFU has warned.
The NFU has sent a letter to The Times in response to its recent article on government figures which show a record number of EU workers in the UK.
Its front page story on 16 November, ‘Record number of EU workers in Britain despite Brexit vote’, refers to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which shows the number of EU citizens working in the UK has risen to a record high, despite last year’s referendum.
It wrote that despite fears of a so-called "Brexodus", 2.37 million migrants from EU states were employed between July and September, an increase of 112,000 on the same period last year.
After an initial drop in the three months after the vote in June 2016, the number of EU citizens employed has risen in every quarter this year.
The article says the figures show a different side to the story compared to news of food being left to rot in the fields due to lack of EU migrant labour.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) explained that that fruit and vegetables were being left to rot because of a shortage of seasonal workers, suggesting that more were needed for unskilled roles.
Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, said the figures "show that predictions of a Brexodus are nonsense".
Much of the increase has been down to more Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK.
Seasonal workers
But in her letter to The Times, NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said that the industry still faces a "significant challenge" in finding reliable workers to work on British farms, despite EU citizens working in the UK at record highs.
"The ONS data on EU citizens that your article refers to on the front page... doesn’t account for seasonal workers that come to the UK for less than 12 months – these make up the majority of the workforce," Ms Batters said.
"This is where fruit, veg and flowers growers in particular are already experiencing real difficulty. Our latest survey of recruiters in this area shows a worker shortage of 29% in September, raising the average shortfall for the year to 11%.
"The British farming sector needs commitments from Government that, where needed, there will be sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers from outside the UK in the run up to the UK leaving the EU and beyond."
Indeed, farms were nearly a third short of workers in September, a survey by the NFU has revealed.
The farming union has warned that the supply chain could face "significant disruption" next year unless the government takes action to prevent a shortfall of workers for agriculture.
The NFU’s labour provider’s survey reveals that there was a 29% shortfall in seasonal workers for horticulture businesses in September, raising the average shortfall for the year to 11%.
The survey also shows that the number of returning workers to farms, a critical source of the workforce, fell to 16%, its lowest level all year. The returnee rate had been as high as 65% in January.





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