£60m of food has been wasted on farms because of a labour shortage, according to the National Farmers’ Union, which found at least £22m of fruit and vegetables had been wasted so far this year.
Tom Bradshaw, the union’s deputy president, said: “It’s nothing short of a travesty that quality, nutritious food is being wasted at a time when families across the country are already struggling to make ends meet because of soaring living costs.
Brexit has reduced access to temporary workers coming in from the EU. Up to 38,000 visas have been made available under this year’s seasonal workers scheme, which offers short-term visas to those helping with food production. However, the farming industry say it needs 70,000 alone. Less than 4% of seasonal workers come from the UK, as those permanently living here and seeking work often do not live close to farms and may find it difficult to move for seasonal work and live in temporary accommodation. More than two-thirds of farm workers come via the seasonal workers scheme.
The latest concerns over UK fruit and vegetables follows fears for the potato crop, with half of England’s expected to fail because it cannot be irrigated. Even crops that are usually drought-tolerant, such as maize, have been failing. Milk production is also down nationally because of a lack of food for cows.