Living wage ‘could make strawberries unaffordable’

The English NFU warned that British soft fruit could be priced out of the market. Picture: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

The English NFU warned that British soft fruit could be priced out of the market. Picture: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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The seasonal delight of British strawberries could become an unaffordable luxury if the government ignores growers’ concerns over the new national living wage (NLW), it was claimed yesterday.

The English NFU said that, according to the findings of an independent report, British soft fruit could be priced out of the market, with UK growers being pushed out of business while production was forced abroad.

The report, produced by consultancy firm, Andersons, showed that “unprecedented” wage rises would be imposed on UK grower business, making them uncompetitive and unprofitable within three to four years of NLW introduction.

Calling for employers’ national insurance contributions for seasonal workers to be scrapped, the union said that while it was fully supportive of a living wage for all workers in the agricultural industry, the government had to realise that the new wages would have a huge impact on this sector, particularly for labour-intensive crops such as hand-picked fruit and vegetables where labour costs could be as high as 70 per cent of turnover.

The report showed that the introduction of the NLW would increase the cost of seasonal wages for grower businesses by 35 per cent over the period 2016-21.

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