Brexit has caused a ‘massive hole’ in the numbers of people coming to the UK to pick fruit in the summer months putting growers ‘on the brink’, it is claimed.
Numbers of seasonal workers applying to work at one Kent-based company are down 90 per cent in the last two years and there are fears for the future.
Stephen Taylor, managing director of Winterwood Farms Ltd, said the labour market has got ‘tighter and tighter’ over the last couple of years.
He said the impact of Brexit on the flow of workers to UK farms is only getting worse.
A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the Government will ‘always back our farmers and growers’ and ensure producers across the UK have the support and workforce that they need.
Numbers of seasonal workers applying to work at one Kent-based company are down 90 per cent in the last two years and there are fears for the future (file photo)
Stephen Taylor (pictured), managing director of Winterwood Farms Ltd, said the labour market has got ‘tighter and tighter’ over the last couple of years
But Mr Taylor said: ’95 per cent of all fruit and produce picked and packaged in this country is done by eastern Europeans.
‘From the end of June, people who haven’t got pre-settled status, at least, can’t work.
‘We are not talking about a few tens of thousands, we are talking hundreds of thousands of people less to work in the UK. That’s a massive hole’.
Two years ago, Mr Taylor’s firm received about 20 applications a day from people wanting to come to the UK to work picking fruit, but this year it is just two a day.
‘We are right at the brink now,’ he said.
Winterwood Farms Ltd runs more than 2,000 hectares of farmland across the UK, France, Poland and South Africa, packaging and marketing fruits to retailers and supermarkets.
They are the largest growers of blueberries in both Europe and Africa.
Mr Taylor said the impact of Brexit on the flow of workers to UK farms is only getting worse
At their premises near Maidstone in Kent, Mr Taylor says they are busy getting ready for the summer season.
Mr Taylor referenced the UK’s unemployment rate, which stood at 4.8 per cent of over-16s for January to March, but said it varies by region, and issues arose where British workers did not live in reach of farms.