Vegetable pickers have seen their salaries climb to almost £20 an hour thanks to chronic labor shortages brought on by Brexit and Covid-19. Both events have been blamed for deterring thousands of immigrants from coming over to do the work. UK residents themselves mostly aren’t applying for it. This means that some 500,000 workers are needed to fill positions across the food supply chain, from pickers and packers to processors and drivers.
Simon Naylor, of Naylor Farms in Lincolnshire, stated: ‘To keep people we have raised wages by 60% to nearly £20 per hour for packhouse staff and from this week we are having to pay them to turn up at £20 a day for a weekday and £30 for weekends. This now is unsustainable.’
The family farm is the UK’s largest grower of cabbages and has been operating for 112 years, turning over more than £26 million on average each year.
And although the government has put in place a special visa program to let in extra agricultural workers from the EU and Ukraine, Naylor says it is not enough. He said the scheme will not work because those workers must be recruited on the basis they are skilled and will be earning a minimum of £25,000.
According to metro.co.uk, the situation is seen as so alarming by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) that it has suggested the government have the army on standby to help deliver food.
Twitter users have already complained of empty shelves at their supermarkets. ‘The shortage is already there,’ said one user, ‘It’s scary, Brexit is to blame.’ Others supported the pay increases, suggesting that more money should be offered to attract more workers.
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