Food is being thrown away and thousands of pounds are lost every week because of Brexit-related labour shortages, one of the biggest vegetable producers in the UK has said.
Freshlands Farm, based in Cambridgeshire, told the BBC it lost tens of thousands of pumpkins because they were unable to find workers willing to clear weeds from the fields.
Manager Jordan Abblitt said this is because Eastern European workers, who were usually doing the job, had not been available since Brexit – and is now very concerned about whether he can find 20 to 30 workers needed daily to pick, wash and pack pumpkins.
Norfolk company Alfred G Pearce has experienced staff shortages of up to 30 per cent.
Manager Jack Pearce said Brexit played a part in the lack of workforce, and the company is also struggling to get its vegetables to UK supermarkets because there are not enough lorry drivers.
He told the BBC: “With a chilled product like ours we rely on just-on-time deliveries.
“In some cases products are being rejected as they are delivered late. Unfortunately we are having to bring it back and dump it.
“It’s happening on a weekly basis now. We are talking thousands of pounds each weekend.”
The government insisted employers should “invest in the domestic workforce rather than relying on labour from abroad”.
A government spokesperson admitted “the sector has often relied on migrant workers” and said they temporarily increased the number of visas available from 10,000 to 30,000.
Meanwhile, a lorry driver has explained why he is thinking of following in the footsteps of his colleagues and moving back to Romania to work across Europe.
Living and working standards
Viorel Alexandru Onu told The London Economic the living and working standards would be better if he lived in Romania and drove across European countries, than his current life in Northampton, where he drives in the Rugby area.
“I don’t currently have time for anything else,” he told TLE.
He added: “I have been thinking of going back to Romania and working across the whole of Europe again because of what I am left with here versus there.
“There is a difference between food prices in the UK six years ago when I worked here versus food prices now.
“Back then, I could live on £40 for a week, now I spend up to £120 per week so the costs are three times higher. Fuel prices have increased as well over the past nine months.”
He thinks the government prolonging working hours for existing drivers will not help with deliveries after 100,000 UK lorry drivers left their jobs.
And he thinks companies paying bigger salaries for less drivers to do as many deliveries as possible will not help either.
He said: “The problem is there are the same drivers left in the UK. To cover for the shortages, you have to bring drivers from abroad.
“If you pay better salaries, you attract existing drivers from other companies, but those companies then have drivers shortages and it’s the same thing.”
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