Defra has assembled a working group to design a new seasonal labour scheme as the latest survey on supply showed more than 40 per cent of food and farming businesses have had to bump up their wages to attract workers.
The Association of Labour Providers (ALP), which carried out the study, also found 30 per cent of providers did not expect to be able to supply sufficient workers for the remainder of summer 2017 – up from 21 per cent in February.
For Christmas 2017, 45 per cent did not expect to be able to source enough workers and half said the quality of recruits had dropped off since last year.
The hike in wage costs will come as a further blow to the horticultural sector, which feared planned increases from the introduction of the National Living Wage would lead to business closures.
The wage rises come on top of additional spend in sourcing workers, as 2 out of 3 labour providers invest more in finding employees due to the shortage.
ALP chief executive, David Camp, said: “The UK Government should not wait for labour supply to fail with the devastating impact this will have on businesses.
“We are reassured Defra is now convening a multi-stakeholder group to look at designing a model Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Permit Based Quota Scheme fit for the foreseeable future.”
Farming organisations have previously expressed concern about the department’s failure to include access to labour in its Brexit preparations.