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Farmers have accused the government of failing to listen to its warnings about a potential food crisis because of worker shortages.
At a National Farmers Union (NFU) conference, food producers, processors and retailers urged the government to fix supply chain issues – including the seasonal worker immigration regime, as much of the agricultural sector relies on overseas labour.
Immigration minister Kevin Foster this week confirmed that the number of seasonal worker visas issued in 2022 will remain at 30,000, despite calls to increase the quota.
“We will be moving to a three-year system, announcement is imminent,” Foster told a hearing of the environment, food and rural affairs committee.
“There will be a scheme at 30,000 [permits] next year and then we always have the ability as we have shown with similar routes we have created to add on.”
The number of visas is also expected to be cut to 28,000 in 2024, it has been reported.
Food producers have said 30,000 seasonal workers per year is inadequate.
Julian Marks, managing director at food producer Barfoots of Botley, told the NFU’s conference: “Soft fruit alone takes 30,000, and an idea that you can then spread that 30,000 over the ornamental industry as well as the edible industry is crazy, and is going to create some real tensions next year.”
NFU president Minette Batters said: “Britain’s farmers are world-leaders in producing climate-friendly food and, over the past 18 months, have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full despite many being impacted by severe supply chai