Workers are being offered £30-an-hour to pick vegetables as desperate bosses try to stem a supply crisis before Christmas.
Farmers will pay seasonal labourers up to £1,000-a-week – £50,000 per year – to help them dig up crops, the British Growers Association revealed.
Wages are also soaring in the meat industry, with trained butchers able to fetch packets up to £37,000 due to a shortage of 15,000 employees.
It comes as Cabinet ministers warned Britain has become ‘drunk on cheap labour’ in another sideswipe at businesses.
Top Tories used the Conservative Party Conference to slam firms for trying to blame the government for the supply chaos.
Meanwhile ministers were told just 27 fuel tanker drivers from the EU have applied to work in the UK under the government’s emergency scheme.
The plan to thwart the fuel crisis appears to be lagging as 300 visas were on offer for the specialist HGV truckers – showing a shocking take up.
Farmers will pay seasonal labourers up to £1,000-a-week – £50,000 per year – to help them, the British Growers Association revealed (file photo)
It comes as Cabinet ministers warned Britain has become ‘drunk on cheap labour’ in another sideswipe at businesses. Pictured: Empty shelves in London yesterday
Chief executive of the British Growers Association Jack Ward told the Times: ‘There’s intense competition for labour with… people poaching labour off farms to work in hospitality industry.
‘There’s a much celebrated case here in Lincolnshire where they are now offering up to £30 an hour to pick broccoli.’
The huge wage surges are the result of an exodus of farm hands, with the National Farmers’ Union suggesting one in eight has left the supply chain.
It has led to farmers putting fewer crops into the ground for last harvest, meaning more food was imported into Britain.
The growers’ association asked the government if there will be another seasonal worker permit scheme next year.
Some blame the Home Office for the problems – rather than Defra – saying many EU workers with settled status left during the pandemic.
A government spokesman said: ‘This year we expanded the seasonal workers pilot to 30,000 visas for workers to come to the UK for up to six months.
‘However, we want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.’
Some blame the Home Office (pictured, Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday) for the problems, saying many EU workers with settled status left during the pandemic
Some Cabinet ministers were openly hostile towards businesses over the supply crisis at the Conservative Party Conference.
Several of them are said to be livid businesses are trying to shift the blame on to the government by pointing the finger at the handling of the pandemic and Brexit.
A senior party source told the Telegraph the fuel crisis and empty shelves were ‘a failure of the free market, not the state’.
Another told the newspaper ‘They have known for five years that we were ending freedom of movement, and we have told them repeatedly they shouldn’t pull the lever of uncontrolled immigration every time. But they are drunk on cheap labour.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he could not ‘wave a magic wand’ and firms needed to tweak their supply chains.
Business minister Paul Scully said companies had a ‘collective responsibility’ to fix the issues.
And Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said they had become too dependent on too few suppliers.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictures yesterday) said he could not ‘wave a magic wand’ and firms needed to tweak their supply chains
But they faced a swift backlash as business leaders blamed the government for ‘starting to panic’ amid fears the crisis will continue until Christmas.
They said they were ‘getting their excuses in early’ and had warned ministers months ago about the shortage of HGV drivers.
Boss of clothing giant Next Lord Wolfson said a ‘demand-led’ immigration system was needed – where firms can get workers from abroad providing they pay a visa tax.
And Iceland boss Richard Walker said the situation was ‘a self- inflicted wound’ by ministers, adding they were attacking business because they are ‘in a panic’.
In a further blow, ministers have been told just 27 fuel tanker drivers from the EU have applied to work in the UK under the government’s emergency scheme.
In a further blow, ministers have been told just 27 fuel tanker drivers from the EU have applied to work in the UK under the government’s emergency scheme. Pictured: Soldiers learning the ropes in east London last week
The plan to thwart the fuel crisis appears to be lagging as 300 visas were on offer for the specialist HGV truckers.
An insider told the Times ministers had only given the green light to the scheme because they were told the industry had workers ready to fill up the places.
They added to the newspaper the setback is expected to cause even more delays in getting fuel back in the pumps – meaning the Army will have to be used for longer.
The South East is continuing to bear the brunt of the crisis, with around one in five stations sucked dry.
A source said: ‘These schemes were launched because this is what industry said they needed. But we’re yet to see the numbers promised coming through.’