The shortage of migrant labour facing UK farmers could hit both supplies and prices of seasonal fruit and vegetables this summer, a new market report has warned.
With growers struggling to recruit overseas workers, the Summer 2018 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast urges businesses to monitor supplier prices carefully as the summer season gets underway.
The Market Forecast draws on exclusive data from a range of suppliers working with Lynx Purchasing to look at hospitality buying trends.
Both labour shortages and a late start to the growing season caused by the ‘Beast from the East’ combined to push up the prices of a range of fresh produce.
Although the weather has changed for the better, the challenge of recruiting migrant labour threatens to be a longer-term issue.
Having seen a 12.5% shortfall in migrant workers in 2017, the NFU has warned the government that the recruitment of enough workers for the 2018 picking season is “mission critical” for UK fruit and veg farmers.
The shortfall is not simply the result of concerns about Brexit, although that’s a factor; EU workers
now have a wider range of employment options and many have seen wages increase in their own country or can travel somewhere closer to home for seasonal work.
There are also concerns that the number of returning workers, who bring skills and experience, has fallen.
Rachel Dobson, Lynx Purchasing Managing director said the industry is struggling to recruit enough seasonal workers.
"Our usual advice is to make the most of fresh, seasonal produce, but this summer that comes with an additional warning due to the labour issue," Ms Dobson said.
"With fresh salad crops and summer berries now ready for picking, the industry is struggling to recruit enough seasonal workers.
"It's not simply concerns about Brexit, although that's a factor; EU workers now have a wider range of employment options and many have seen wages increase in their own country or can travel somewhere closer to home for seasonal work.
Ms Dobson added: "Without enough migrant workers, there's a risk that produce is simply left in the fields. Farmers and growers have asked for a commitment from government that they will have access to sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers, and it's an issue which needs a speedy resolution."