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UK: Shortage of seasonal workers may cause veg shortage

The fallout from Brexit has been undeniably far-reaching – but few thought it would affect this year’s Christmas dinner tables.

However British farmers are now warning that a shortage of seasonal workers from Europe means there may be fewer Brussels sprouts to pass round this yuletide.

The lower value of sterling since the Leave vote is putting pickers off coming here, leaving farms struggling to fill thousands of harvesting jobs.

‘Growers are very worried about where the labour is going to come from,’ said Ali Capper, the National Farmers Union’s horticulture board chairman. 

The worst-case scenario, she said, would be that farmers are unable to meet their orders, leading to shortages on supermarket shelves.

The crisis could also hit other vegetables, including carrots, parsnips and potatoes.

Lincolnshire farmer Mike Capps, who aims to harvest about 150 tons of sprouts for Christmas week, said it is becoming harder to recruit labourers. 

The NFU estimates that 12 per cent of the 60,000 seasonal fruit and veg jobs required have not been filled. 

The fall in the pound has made wages worth less when exchanged for currencies such as the euro, Polish zloty and Bulgarian lev.

If the shortage continues, farmers may have to raise pay – which in turn is likely to mean higher prices in the supermarkets.

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