Excellent growing conditions have provided a bumper crop of UK soft fruit this season, but industry organisation British Summer Fruits warns that Brexit means that many growers are struggling to harvest the volume.
“We have been experiencing bumper crops across both strawberries and cherries this year,” said a spokeswoman for British Summer Fruits. Tesco is among retailers who have reported increased sales of British grown fruit from strawberries through to cherries and apricots, and has introduced larger pack sizes to help suppliers move unexpected large volumes of product.
However, growers are reporting a shortage of migrant workers available for fruit picking and grading. Jack Ward, chief executive of British Growers told journalists, “The labour situation has definitely tightened in the last 15 months. It is more difficult and more costly to recruit people. There are fewer returners and the age profile, generally, is going up amongst seasonal labour. I think younger people are more prepared to go and do other things.
“If you wound the clock back 10 years, it would have been the younger people who pioneered the idea of coming from Lithuania or Romania or Bulgaria or the Czech Republic to pick fruit.
“I think what you are finding is that a lot of businesses are spending a lot more time recruiting than they have in previous years. They have got to work a lot harder to attract people.” He added that high levels of employment (the highest since 1971) also meant that there are insufficient numbers of British workers to replace EU labour, even if they could be persuaded to pick the crops.
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