Posted on: 18 Aug 2017
While many believe that food and drink industry jobs will be poorer after Brexit down to the loss of skilled EU workers, however, none more fear this than farmers, according to a statement by the National Farmer’s Union.
In a statement meant to draw attention to the UK’s lack of self-dependency for produce, the union said that if Britain took a ‘cliff edge departure’ from the European Union, leaving us without imports, come Sunday our ‘national larders’ would be empty.
The calculation concluded that Britain does not even produce enough of its staples such as milk, cheese, beef and potatoes to feed the country for a year.
Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmer’s Union, said the government will now need to think about the huge contribution the farming industry provides: “Since the UK voted to leave the EU, and with trade negotiations starting, the supply of British food is now seen in a very different light,” he said.
British self-sufficiency has been on the decline in the past 30 years, with levels falling from 80 per cent to 60 per cent of food produced here in the UK making it to our dining tables. Following this trend, in 10 years the UK could only produce 50 per cent of its food itself. This over-reliance on imports has been described as a ‘national security risk’, according to The Guardian.
While not calling for complete self-sustainability – as of course different climates are required to produce different kinds of fruits and vegetables – the NFU is calling for the chance to maximise the produce they are already great at growing.
However, imports aren’t the only problem we face in the immediate aftermath of Brexit when it comes to our agricultural industry. The loss of EU workers also threatens to affect the produce we do still farm on British soil.
The Guardian reported that a recent survey found that 30 per cent of agencies who provide British food businesses with seasonal staff believe they won’t be able to meet the demand for the remainder of the summer – a peak time for the picking of fruit and vegetables.
While EU workers have in no way been prevented from working in the UK (and in future it’s very unlikely they will be either), the EU referendum will change the framework which underpins how they do live and work here. The system will not have their rights as EU citizens underpinned, and could potentially be more volatile, depending on what is happening in politics at that moment in time.
However, as this workforce crisis has already begun according to sources such as The Guardian, it reveals what the real damage of the EU referendum has been on this workforce. From an outside perspective, it has suggested that foreign workers are not welcome here. It has also weakened Sterling, making the country a far less economically desirable place to which these workers could come.
It’s believed there will be a national shortfall of around 20 per cent, which could see produce rotting on the vines rather than making it to our dinner tables if not urgently addressed says the NFU.