Fears of possible fruit and veg shortage this Christmas

Millions of pieces of fruit and veg are rotting due to a lack of EU workers, leaving industry leaders fearful that there could be a shortage in the run-up to Christmas.

Supplies of popular winter vegetables like brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, kale and mushrooms could be affected by the labour shortfall, which is part fuelled by Brexit uncertainty.

The crisis is striking the apple harvest the most as growers have been forced to leave 100 tons of fruit unpicked – which amounts to around 16 million apples.

The figures, which emerged in a National Farmers' Union survey, say that farmers are seeing a 16 per cent shortfall in the seasonal workforce and as a result, British farmers could be hit hard financially during the festive period.

Male farm worker walks harvested strawberries down poly tunnel.The employment slump is leading experts to fear winter food shortages in supermarkets.

Ali Capper, chairwoman of the NFU's horticultural board and an apple producer told the Times: "With the root-crop harvest approaching there may not be enough carrots, parsnips, sprouts or broccoli at Christmas."

In recent years, a shortage of workers from Eastern Europe, who make a reported 99 per cent of the seasonal picking workforce, has caused problems for growers but the situation has worsened this year over Brexit fears.

Last month, the labour shortage was reported to be 20 per cent, but experts fear this month the figure could be as high as 30 per cent.

EU workers are increasingly choosing to work in countries that pay in euros like the Netherlands, Denmark or Germany because they are apparently put off by the possible devaluation of sterling and confusion over visa regulations.

Family celebrates Christmas. At the dining table, the father carving stuffed roasted turkey and shares it with his family.A grower from the South-West has had to let broccoli valued at £100,000 rot in his fields, according to Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association.

Mr Ward told Yahoo News UK: "Potentially it could make supplies tight but retailers will pull out all the stops to make sure there will be products on the shelves, the danger is that we start importing products."

He said that at present the British Growers Association wants the Government to expand a pilot scheme allowing workers from outside the EU, like Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, to travel for seasonal work in Britain.

At present, only 2,500 such work permits a year are granted.

"Frustratingly everything is on hold, because of Brexit," he said.

Industry experts estimate that an extra 10,000 workers are needed.

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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