The coronavirus travel restrictions are blocking laborers in the United Kingdom just as the harvest season for lettuces and berries begins.
The UK’s fruit and vegetable farmers warned that without the necessary workforce, crops could be left to rot.
The country is heavily reliant on seasonal farm workers from abroad. An estimated 70,000 to 90,000 people are needed between April and October each year to plant, pick and pack the produce.
The majority comes from Eastern Europe, just for the season. Many of the migrants come from Romania, Bulgaria and Poland return year after year, and are highly valued by farmers for their skill and speed.
Farmers now demand clarity from the government about its immigration plans after December 31, when the current Brexit transition period ends and, with it, freedom of movement for EU citizens to Britain.
In an effort to tackle the problem, the government has expanded a temporary workers program to allow 10,000 migrants from outside the EU, mainly from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova. But it is unclear how many have arrived under that program, as air travel remains difficult and expensive.