Food waste piles up as Britain faces farming labor shortages, planting scaled down for 2022
20 Sep 2021 --- Unprecedented labor shortages in the UK over recent months have led to endemic food waste, as crops have been left to rot in the fields. As a result, British fruit and vegetable suppliers are planning to cut down their planting for next year.
A post-Brexit pilot visa scheme rolled out to admit seasonal workers has been insufficient, while nationwide labor shortages have lured away fruit and vegetable pickers to other sectors.
Just last month, UK meat producers looked into hiring prisoners to plug labor gaps that have deepened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smaller harvest forecast for 2022
Fresh produce growers are forecasting smaller harvests for the coming year, in anticipation that gaps will be filled by imports.
However, UK F&B businesses are anticipating further setbacks as the enforcement of new post-Brexit border control policy on food and agricultural produce coming in from the EU will be delayed by eight months, following a previous postponement of six months.
Rising wages for harvesters coupled with higher overtime pay have led to workers from abroad returning home after making enough money within a shorter span of time.
For decades, UK farms, similar to others across Europe, have outsourced seasonal labor from the EU, with workers being given passes to move around Britain and work freely.
When Brexit terminated the rights of these individuals to be contracted for work in the UK, a pilot scheme for seasonal workers’ visas was bumped up from 10,000 to 30,000 places this year.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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