UK crops left to rot after drop in EU farm workers in Britain after Brexit referendum
'We simply could not harvest everything,' says farmer James Orr
British farmers have been forced to leave thousands of pounds worth of vegetables to rot in their fields, because of a drop in the number of farm workers from the European Union (EU).
James Orr, whose farm outside St Andrews produces potatoes, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, said his farm suffered a 15 per cent drop in the number of workers between August and November.
“We simply could not harvest everything, and as a result we left produce in the field to rot,” he told Scotland’s Sunday Herald newspaper.
Enough broccoli to feed 15,000 people for a year was wasted, he added. Mr Orr’s farm supplies more than 1,000 tones of the vegetable and he estimated he lost between £30,000 and £50,000.
The UK farming industry is heavily dependent on pickers from the EU, particularly those from eastern Europe. Britain’s low unemployment rate and the the seasonal nature of the work makes it difficult to attract domestic workers.
But the fall in the value of sterling against the Euro since the Brexit vote, means the UK has become less attractive to seasonal workers from Romania and Bulgaria.
Farmers also fear that a Brexit deal restricting freedom of movement could leave them with even fewer people to help harvest their crops.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has surveyed its members in England, Wales and Scotland to discover the effect leaving the EU could have on the industry.