Farming union NFU Scotland (NFUS) has launched an urgent survey to gather evidence on the availability of labour in the sector.
It comes amid the backdrop of tens of thousands of pigs waiting on farms for slaughter and acres of vegetables rotting in fields, due to a lack of staff in the agri-food supply chain.
NFUS is urging all farmers to complete the online survey – available at surveymonkey.co.uk/r/37ZF3PG – which closes on Thursday October 7.
“The shortfall in both permanent and seasonal workers across Scottish agriculture is at crisis level,” said NFUS policy manager, David Michie.
“A recent survey has already identified that, for our horticultural members, seasonal staffing levels are 20% below where they need to be.
“We are also hearing, on a daily basis, problems being encountered on pig, poultry and dairy farms in securing permanent staff.”
He encouraged farmers to respond to the survey, which should take around five minutes to complete, as it will help NFUS provide a “robust response” to a UK Government call for evidence from the sector.
“Responses to this survey will not only provide us with hard evidence to lobby the UK Government, but they will also help when we lobby Scottish Government and talk to industry, and labour, education and skills providers,” added Mr Michie.
The NFUS survey follows an online labour crisis meeting, organised by the union, last week where representatives from the haulage, food and drink, farming and tourism sectors outlined the problems they face recruiting staff.
They said businesses in their industries were all competing to fill vacancies from a limited pool of potential UK employees.
Scotland Food and Drink chief executive, James Withers, said: “There’s not a massive pool of an untapped domestic workforce for us to tap into.
“The idea of just hiring more locals or just paying more does not stand up to scrutiny.”