Norfolk farmer ceases asparagus cultivation due to labor shortage by FreshPlaza

Norfolk farmer ceases asparagus cultivation due to labor shortage

A Norfolk farmer has ceased asparagus cultivation at Portwood Farm, Attleborough, attributing the decision to a scarcity of migrant workers, a situation exacerbated by Brexit which has impeded the flow of European labor essential for the cultivation of labor-intensive crops. The farm, which annually harvests up to 250 tons of asparagus, requires a minimum of 120 seasonal workers throughout a 10-week season. Farmer Andy Allen has expressed concerns over the sustainability of not only asparagus farming but also soft fruit and poultry production within the UK, citing narrow profit margins and the unpredictability of securing necessary labor.
In response to the labor shortage, the UK government previously increased the Seasonal Worker Visas quota from 2,500 to at least 45,000. Despite this, Allen argues that the six-month duration of these visas is inadequate for covering the entire harvesting period, advocating for an extension to at least nine months to accommodate the full agricultural cycle. He warns of a potential mass exodus from the industry without adjustments to current visa policies and calls for a commitment from all political parties to flexible migration policies, emphasizing the importance of a long-term labor supply for the viability of the agricultural sector.



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