Market analysis from Regency Purchasing Group says that one of the biggest challenges facing food producers in the UK in 2020 will be a shortage of migrant workers come harvest time.

According to Regency, who has been working with suppliers to minimise the impact of the UK leaving the EU, the sector has a huge dependence on migrant workers with around 30,000 workers employed picking fruit and vegetables during the harvest season.

Managing director of Regency Purchasing Group, Alex Demetriou, said: “The potential impact on the availability of migrant workers is by far the most significant challenge facing our UK growers this year.

“Last year saw a decline of migrant workers travelling to the UK to pick fruit and vegetables, because of the uncertainty over Brexit, so we are expecting the numbers prepared to travel this summer will be even less. This is likely to leave a large gap in the labour required – and no real solution to fill it.”

In February, the UK Government outlined its new immigration policy proposals, with plans to introduce a points-based system for skilled workers wishing to enter the UK being rebuffed by the food sector with concerns of it being difficult for businesses in the industry to fulfil required staffing levels.

Demetriou continued to explain the implications of these proposed immigration policies on the UK food export market: “With only one percent of fruit pickers coming from the UK workforce, it’s going to take a seismic shift in labour force and attitudes to fruit picking to rectify the current imbalance. The bottom line is that a shortage in labour may well lead to crops not being picked in time and therefore wasted as well as a potential under-supply for the UK and export market.”