Even before Brexit, a shortage of seasonal workers is hitting fruit and vegetable growers. A survey by the NFU found that almost half the companies supplying agricultural labour were unable to meet the horticultural sector's demands between July and September. The supply pf pickers for late season crops was only able to meet 67 per cent of the industry's needs. This marked a sharp deterioration from the start of the year when none of the labour providers reported problems finding workers.
Leading provider HOPs Labour Solutions said that two years ago 40 per cent of seasonal workers planned to return to the UK. That number had fallen to 24 per cent.
There is a perception that Britain is a xenophobic place, while the devaluation of the pound has reduced net income by 15 to 20 per cent.
British horticulture relies on EU workers for more than 98 per cent of its seasonal workers. Defra secretary Andrea Leadsom has said that more British workers should be attracted into the sector, but they have proved unreliable in the past.