Speaking on the subject at Fruit Focus, Batters said that the above-inflation increase caused by the living wage's introduction would be particularly costly for the labour-intensive fresh produce and ornamentals industry – one which battles with supply chain challenges and an intensively competitive marketplace.
"Agricultural production is planned, costed and budgeted well in advance so this announcement has come with little warning to our farmer and grower members, who will be extremely concerned about the upward pressures throughout their businesses and over the lack of time to adapt accordingly," added Batters.
"The NFU is currently reviewing the evidence and potential impact this announcement will have on the horticulture sector and I have written to the minister to urge him to ensure Defra is doing the same.
"Horticulture is a very progressive and innovative sector. The sector has a fantastic track record of growth, which has seen the cropping season extended and new products launched. However, just as Defra started work on its 25-year- Food and Farming Growth plan, there are real concerns that this rapid inflation in wage costs could have a permanent damaging impact making UK famers less competitive compared with others in the EU. The UK needs a thriving farm economy creating jobs and growth yet this change may lead to a shrinking horticulture sector, increased imports and falling self-sufficiency in fresh produce."
The NFU added that 95 per cent of farm businesses are sole traders and will not benefit from cuts to corporation tax announced in the budget.