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Survey opens for growers and workers who produce fruit and vegetables


Press release issued: 25 October 2021

Researchers from the University of Bristol have launched a new survey that aims to gather information and data on the challenges and experiences faced by everyone working in fruit and vegetable production.

The survey is part of a project that explores the changing social context around the Government’s ‘five-a-day’ fruit and vegetable recommendations and examines the costs and risks to our food system and asks what changes are needed.

The survey is open to growers and farmworkers, British and non-British workers, those based across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and conventional and organic producers of all scales of production. 

Lead researcher Dr Lydia Medland from the University of Bristol’s School of School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, said: “Growers, workers, seasonal migrant workers and others in the sector are vital for the UK’s food system.

“If we are to sustain a resilient food and farming sector able to provide healthy food for the population, we need to take note of the experience of those in the sector. This is the purpose of the survey, which in subsequent years will be followed up by in-person qualitative research.”

The survey comes at a time when awareness about the need to reduce carbon emissions is high, as the UK hosts COP26 in Glasgow this year. Reducing food miles and protecting UK production is one way to do this. This is particularly the case for types of fruit and vegetable that can easily be grown in the UK such as apples and pears, berries and other soft fruit such as plums, as well as a very wide range of vegetables.

This year labour supply has been under great pressure and some growers have had to resort to leaving fruit unpicked or inviting people to ‘pick their own’ at very low cost or even for free.

Dr Medland added: “Seasonal migrant worker quotas increased to 30,000 under the rolling government pilot, yet this pilot scheme has deeply problematic design features, including a risk of exploitation for workers.

“It has also not solved the problem of labour supply for growers with farmers continuing to campaign for the scheme to be expanded. In this context, the survey aims to capture a broad overview of how those working in the sector are faring - both growers and workers.”

Early findings and academic papers will be shared with UK Government departments, including DEFRA.

Findings will also form part of Dr Medland’s wider research which includes in-person fieldwork and multi-party stakeholder discussions. The survey findings will also inform independent research findings which will be published in peer reviewed academic articles and a peer reviewed book focusing on changes to UK food security after Brexit.

The survey is now open in English, takes only about 15 minutes to complete, and gives those who enter the opportunity to enter a prize drawer for Love2Shop vouchers which can be used in many high street shops.

Translations are being made in two languages which are common among seasonal agricultural workers - Romanian and Ukrainian. These languages have been chosen in order to open accessibility to workers who can give insights into the experiences of those participating in the Seasonal Workers Pilot, and those who come from both within (Romania) and from beyond the European Union (Ukraine). These versions will be launched in the first week of November.

All those who work in growing, picking, packing, preparing or in some other way supporting fruit and vegetable production are invited to complete the survey, please access it here.

Further information

Find out about Cabot Institute for the Environment research on Food Security here: Food security | Cabot Institute for the Environment | University of Bristol

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