Soft fruit and vegetable growers, permanent workers and seasonal migrant workers are being asked for their views on the challenges and experiences faced by the sector.
A new survey by the University of Bristol has been launched as production continues to be hampered by crippling shortages of staff to pick vegetables, hard on the heels of a summer season when some growers had to resort to leaving soft fruit, broccoli and cauliflower unharvested.
The survey, which is open to anyone involved in the sector across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is part of a project that will examine the costs and risks to our food system, and findings will be shared with UK Government departments, including Defra.
Lead researcher Dr Lydia Medland, from the University’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, said: “ If we are to sustain a resilient food and farming sector able to provide healthy food for the population, we need to take note of the experience of those in the sector.
“This is the purpose of the survey, which in subsequent years will be followed up by in-person qualitative research.”
Dr Medland confirmed that despite the Seasonal Worker Pilot (SWP) being extended to 30,000 workers this year the scheme had “deeply problematic design features, including a risk of exploitation for workers.”
She added: “It has also not solved the problem of labour supply for growers, with farmers continuing to campaign for the scheme to be expanded.
“In this context, the survey aims to capture a broad overview of how those working in the sector are faring – both growers and workers.”
The survey is being conducted at a time when reducing carbon emissions and cutting back on food miles is high on the industry’s agenda.
It can be accessed at spais.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/5-a-day and from next week translations will be available in Romanian and Ukrainian for agricultural workers,