Over £60m (€71m) has been lost from the UK fruit and vegetable harvest in the first half of 2022, as there isn’t enough labour available to pick the crops, according to a National Farmers Union (NFU) survey.
The survey across England and Wales found that 40% of respondents are suffering crop losses as a result of labour shortages and some 56% said this has led to a fall in production, with the average decrease in production at 19%.
Some 199 fruit and vegetable growers across England and Wales, which between them employ over 22,000 seasonal workers, were contacted.
The NFU found that £22m worth of fruit and vegetables has been wasted directly because of workforce shortages in the first half of 2022 alone.
As the survey represents around one third of the UK horticulture sector, the NFU estimates the overall value of food wasted accumulates to more than £60m.
Analysing the stark findings, the NFU says: “Food cannot go unpicked during cost-of-living crisis.”
Workers not turning up
The survey of horticulture farmers also found that 17% of the workers they had recruited did not turn up this year and 9% of those who did start their role left their contract early.
Considering the impact of this, the growers said they expect a further fall in production in 2023, at an average of 4.4%.
NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “It’s nothing short of a travesty that quality, nutritious food is being wasted at a time when families across the country are already struggling to make ends meet because of soaring living costs.
“At the same time, the prolonged dry weather and record temperatures have created a really challenging growing environment for our fruit and veg.
"Every crop is valuable – to the farm business and to the people whose plates they fill. We simply can’t afford to be leaving food unpicked.”