British strawberry fields are under threat as the National Living Wage starts to impact parts of the UK's farming industry.
Purchasing group Beacon is reporting that its suppliers expect the price of strawberries to rise this year due to the pressure of the National Living Wage (NLW) on British farmers, with some of Beacons suppliers predicting the closure of British farms as it becomes an unprofitable operation.
Beacon, which represents around 2,000 independent businesses across the hospitality, leisure and care home markets as well as suppliers, including regional fresh produce businesses, has said that some of its suppliers are predicting the closure of British farms as it becomes an unprofitable operation.
This warning is backed up by a recent National Farmers Union (NFU) report which states that the impact of the National Living Wage could see growers lose up to 58% of their profits immediately and over the next four years cost fresh food businesses up to 158% of current business profit, making strawberry growing completely unprofitable for British farmers without additional government support.
Other fresh produce farmers will also be affected by the change to National Living Wage, with labour intensive farming industries likely to suffer the most, including: farmers of salad essentials including lettuce, cucumber, peppers and cherry tomatoes.
Marcel Roberti, foodservice sales director at Total Produce, commented: "We represent many domestic, independent growers and the industry has definitely been hit hard by the introduction of the NLW. It's hard for growers to see what more they can do, with many cutting overtime, considering the introduction of mechanisation in production and improving harvesting efficiency in any way they can. Our growers are telling us that strawberry profitability looks to be very badly affected by this new wage rate."
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