The NFU, fearing workers from Romania and Bulgaria will turn their backs on temporary agricultural jobs once work restrictions are lifted at the end of the year, has asked for more labour from non-EU countries.
Nearly 22,000 agricultural workers are flown into the UK for up to six months from the two countries each year under the Home Office’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).
The NFU fears that, once they are granted the right to work in the UK all year round in 2014, migrants from Romania and Bulgaria will choose instead steadier jobs in supermarkets, hotels and pubs, leading to a “catastrophic” harvesting crisis.
The NFU has called on the government to open up the scheme to workers from outside the EU, such as Ukraine, Moldova and Croatia.
Hayley Campbell-Gibbons of the NFU said: “If we can’t meet the staffing levels there will be catastrophic consequences for farmers and inevitably consumers.”