Seeking better industry solutions to skills shortages in edible horticulture is the focus of a new survey by the AHDB and the NFU.
Funded by AHDB and supported in kind by the National Farmers Union (NFU), the survey will aid industry efforts to improve funding provision, provide support for labour challenges and better inform training providers of the products the industry needs.
The aim is to survey more than 600 edible horticulture businesses, proportionally representing the field vegetable, protected edible, soft fruit, tree fruit and mushroom sectors, as well as packhouse operations.
Skilled labour shortages continue to be the most critical issue for many horticulture producers. The NFU itself estimates that a third of growers “are experiencing problems in securing adequate supply of labour from the EU”.
Nathalie Key, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB, said:
“With the uncertainties that remain post-Brexit, questions around building and maintaining a sufficient labour force are still at the forefront of the horticultural industry’s minds. After the success of our previous skills survey, which identified potential opportunities to resolve key labour resource issues within the ornamentals sector, we have decided to look at the edibles sector too.
“This sector operates in a highly competitive retailer environment, where efficiency in all aspects of business, including labour, is key. It’s therefore imperative that the industry has access to a skilled workforce for its future viability and growth.”
NFU horticulture adviser Emily Roads said:
“We know that the edible horticultural sector relies on an incredible array of skills to support the production of safe and traceable British fresh produce.
“This survey will help the industry focus on what’s required and build a picture for policy makers and stakeholders to help underpin any future skills strategy.”
The skills survey has been conducted via phone by Pye Tait Consulting throughout the month of February and concludes on March 20.
If you are a grower and would like to complete an online version of the survey, click here.
More information and resources to help horticultural businesses offset the challenge of access to labour, can be found at ahdb.org.uk/smarthort.
The report will be available to view on the AHDB website by the end of May 2020.