Labour shortages have cost the UK fresh produce industry almost £13m in lost revenue so far this season, an NFU survey has shown. Restrictions on migrant labour meant producers were unable to source enough seasonal workers to pick crops this summer, the union claimed.

The average grower business had already lost £140,000 because of the shortages –£30,000 more than they did in the whole of last season, the NFU said. Fears were now mounting that the phasing out of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in 2010 would lead to devastating crop losses as companies struggled to recruit staff.

“We look to ministers to recognise that the evidence is now compelling, and to act to ensure that the future competitiveness of the industry is not irrevocably damaged, leading to increases in imports,” said NFU horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst.