A new piece of research has shown Google searches for farming jobs in the UK across Poland, Romania and Bulgaria dropped by 34 per cent between 2016 and 2017.
The study, carried out by GK Strategy and onefourzero, found the figure remained equally high when just looking at Romania and Bulgaria, which have significantly more agricultural job searches.
Month-by-month comparisons revealed a dramatic decline in demand, with May 2017 seeing 45 per cent fewer searches from all three countries than May 2016.
Key political events, such as the EU referendum and the triggering of Article 50, also drove steep drops.
Fleur Hicks, managing director of GK Strategy, said: “Through sector-specific analysis of interest in UK jobs from Eastern Europe, we can start to see a clearer picture of how Brexit is affecting the desirability of the UK as a destination for work.
“Such a dramatic drop in demand over a 12-month period suggests Brexit will seriously affect the UK’s workforce, particularly in sectors such as agriculture where the decline in interest is most pronounced.
“Employers in these sectors should utilise the latest demand and sentiment data to stay ahead of trends, and address and manage potential shortages.”
The research was released as Defra Secretary Michael Gove told the farming industry to expect an announcement on a new seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme ‘shortly’.
Mr Gove drew applause from the NFU conference audience when he said the union had put forward ‘compelling’ arguments for a new scheme.
He also acknowledged the need for more permanent workers from overseas, and made clear he was speaking to the Migration Advisory Committee, tasked with looking at the UK’s post-Brexit labour needs, about putting access to farm workers at ‘the heart of their thinking’.