Farming minister George Eustice has promised that the government will look to support horticultural businesses that want to replace manual labour with automation.
Support methods being looked into by the government include additional funding for equipment, technology and training. Horticulture companies are looking at automating work such as fruit picking following NFU figures that showed a 29% labour shortfall in 2017.
Eustice said horticultural farming had “an opportunity to get access to that kind of support in the future in a way that it perhaps didn’t in the past” when commenting on potential additional funding.
Growers are also said to be concerned about a loss of labour when Brexit is implemented in 2020, with concerns that technology will not be ready to make a full takeover. When asked about new farming technology Eustice said he was a “realist” with regard to the short-term impact of technology.
Eustace told farmers who may be concerned over a loss of labour post-Brexit: “We will ensure that by the time we come out of that transition period we’ve got sufficient arrangements in place to make sure we’ve got the labour that we need.”