The National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned that without migrant workers, British farmers would be unable to staff their harvests.
Head of the NFU Peter Kendall said that without migration to the UK from the EU, there would be a shortage of farm workers for busy times of the farming year.
Many migrants come to the UK to fill low-paid jobs such as fruit picking and packing, which British workers are reluctant to take because of the hard word, long hours and comparatively low hourly pay rate involved.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Kendall said that without migrant workers Britain could not harvest its fruit and vegetables.
He added that the recent floods had shown that the government’s view of the importance of farming had swung too far towards concern over the environment, rather than farmland.
“For me, the pendulum has swung too far to 'environment first’ and farming not being important,” said Mr Kendall.
“I’m not saying farmland shouldn’t act as a buffer, but what it shouldn’t do is act as water storage and be undervalued.”
Farming communities such as Lincolnshire employ migrants to carry out agricultural jobs which traditionally were not only done by seasonal agricultural workers in the UK – but also students and even families. English Roma communities also traditionally used to work on Britain’s farms during harvest time.
Seasonal agricultural workers in the UK now often come from Eastern European countries, however – which in some areas of the UK has prompted allegations that EU workers take British jobs and this is pushing down wages in the UK.
The Labour party has pledged to end the low-pay loophole many EU workers find themselves in when they accept unskilled jobs in the UK
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