UK – The labour crisis in the United Kingdom (UK) is severely affecting the fruits and vegetable sector leading to losses that are now running into millions of pounds.
According to a new survey from National Farmers Union (NFU) more than £60m worth of fruit and vegetables has gone into waste because there are not enough workers to pick the crops.
The survey results showed that £22m (US$25.8 million) worth of fruit and vegetables had been wasted directly because of workforce shortages in the first half of 2022 alone.
As the survey represents around a third of the UK horticulture sector, the NFU estimated the overall value of food wasted accumulates to more than £60m (US$70.42 million).
The NFU said that the results demonstrated the detrimental impact workforce shortages are having on the food and farming sector, resulting in significant crop losses at a time when the country is experiencing the
40% of respondents reported to have suffered crop losses as a result of labour shortages while 56% reported a fall in production – averaging a 19% reduction across the businesses.
“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.”
The survey also found that on average for the 2022 season so far, businesses were experiencing worker shortages of 14% with 17% of workers recruited not turning up to work.
Another 9% of workers left their contract early, further compounding the problem which is expected to spill over to 2023 with growers expecting a further fall in production 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.”
He also said that with the demand on the Seasonal Workers Scheme expected to increase again next year, it is vital the scheme has the capacity to facilitate the people the sector needs to pick, pack and process the country’s fruit and vegetables.
Orchard House Foods closes Gateshead facility
The labor crisis has extended to the production floor with Orchard House Foods announcing plans to close its Gateshead facility partly due to its inability to recruit enough staff.
Orchard House Foods provides freshly prepared fruit, fruit drinks, fruit jellies, fresh fruit yogurts, compotes and granolas to major retailers, supermarkets and restaurants in the UK.
To business plans to open a previously-closed production line and consolidate production at its existing site in Corby by the end of November this year to compensate for the lost capacity at Gateshead.
Apart from labor shortages, Orchard House attributed the closure to rapidly rising costs of food, labour, energy and transport which made the facility commercially unviable despite millions of pounds being invested in the facility.
Orchard House said customers and suppliers will not be impacted by the plan but the factory’s 430 employees will face redundancy as a result of the closure.
Liked this article? Subscribe to Food Business Africa News, our regular email newsletters with the latest news insights from Africa and the World’s food and agro-industry. SUBSCRIBE HERE.