Farms hit by labour shortage as migrant workers shun ‘racist’ UK

A 20% shortfall in migrant workers relied on to pick and vegetables is blamed on Brexit making the UK seem ‘xenophobic’

“The grim reality is that the perception from overseas is we are xenophobic, we’re racist, and the pound has plummeted too,” said John Hardman, director at Hops Labour Solutions, who also estimates a 20% shortage of workers. “We’ve gone with Brexit and that makes us look unfriendly.

Farms have been hit with a shortage of the migrant workers that Britain relies on to bring in the fruit and vegetable harvests, according to a series of new reports.

There was a 17% shortfall in May, leaving some farms critically short of pickers, according to a new National Farmers Union (NFU) survey. The decline is blamed on Brexit, with the vote to depart the EU leaving the UK seen as “xenophobic” and “racist” by overseas workers, according to the director of a major agricultural recruitment company.

The UK requires about 80,000 seasonal workers to pick the vegetable and fruit harvest and virtually all come from eastern Europe. Just 14 of the 13,400 workers recruited between January and May this year were British, the NFU survey found. Three-quarters of the workers came from Bulgaria and Romania, and almost all the rest from other eastern European countries.

The authoritative NFU analysis showed the shortfall in May 2016, before the Brexit referendum, was just 4%. It also showed the proportion of overseas workers choosing to return to the UK has plummeted from two-thirds to one-third since January, meaning valuable experience is being lost.



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