June 22, 2017 / 11:23 AM / 2 years ago

UK faces shortage of seasonal workers for fruit, vegetable harvest

Broccoli is seen for sale amongst other vegetables at a market, in London, Britain February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is facing a shortage of seasonal workers this year to harvest fruit and vegetables linked to the decision to leave the European Union and the related weakness of sterling, according to a survey issued by the National Farmers Union.

The survey found the proportion of workers returning to undertake seasonal work has fallen a record low of 33 percent while labour providers were unable to meet their recruitment targets in May by 1,515 people or 16.7 percent.

“A lack of clarity regarding the UK’s future relationship with the EU and a weakened sterling has contributed to the reduction in workers on farms now being reported by labour providers who source seasonal workers,” NFU horticulture and potatoes board Chairman Ali Capper said.

Farmers recruit seasonal workers mainly from eastern EU countries with 75 percent arriving from Romania and Bulgaria.

The NFU called on the government to provide clarity on how farmers will access a reliable and competent workforce both now and after Britain leaves the EU.

“Without that, this trend is likely to continue and at this stage in the season any further tightening in the workforce will hit hard on farms,” Capper said.

Reporting by Nigel Hunt; editing by Susan Thomas

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