$1m in raspberries left to rot as Brexit labor shortage bites

Workers weigh punnets of raspberries before they are sealed for transport in the pack house at Oakdene Farm. David Azia / for On Events

Consumers will also likely face higher bills at the supermarket. With labor accounting for between 10 and 60 percent of the cost of growing fruit and vegetables, even modest wage rises can mean a rise in grocery prices.

In the meantime, the National Farmers Union and other industry organizations are pushing the government for more clarity on how it plans to handle EU citizens’ rights as well as immigration from non-EU countries.

Some growers are asking for workers from non-EU nations, such as Ukraine, to be granted seasonal worker visas. But talk of further immigration is politically toxic in Britain, where tougher border controls were a key factor in the appeal of Brexit, so such visas are unlikely to be issued in the near future.

With so little certainty about the future, farmers are unsure how to make crucial decisions for their U.K. operations.

Chambers has made an investment worth several hundred thousand dollars in a farming joint venture in Poland — heading east for financial stability only a decade after migrant workers headed west.

“Looking two to three years into the future, where’s the confidence that there are people around to pick the fruit?” he asked. “We can’t live in a world without confidence that we will have labor to harvest.”

NBC News

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