NFU President Minette Batters has reiterated the importance of access to a competent and flexible workforce for the horticulture sector, as she opened the National Fruit Show in Kent today.
In her opening address, she also called for commitment from Government that all imported food will be produced to at least the equivalent standards as those required of UK producers.
Mrs Batters said: “Our ability to employ the necessary amount of people for both permanent and seasonal work and achieving a good trading relationship with the EU are top priorities for the horticulture sector.
“The UK currently imports 6 million tonnes of fruit and veg a year, and it is essential that this food meets our high standards so that the public’s confidence in the supply chain is maintained.
“But none of this will matter if we do not have the people needed for production. Uncertainty is crippling businesses and we have experienced yet another year of significant labour shortages.
“The sector has secured a major victory through the announcement of a pilot SAWS scheme for horticulture, and although it is limited to 2,500 non-EU workers we hope it will open the door to a larger scheme after the transition.
“The horticulture sector delivers 23% of UK farm gate value off just 3% of the land area and the coming months and years will offer even more opportunities for the sector to grow. We must be able to look beyond Brexit, focusing on the long-term business of food production and encourage profitability and growth within the sector.”