Growers are considering reducing their cropping plans for next season as they continue to struggle to recruit sufficient labour, resulting in many crops this year going to waste or being given away.
Jon Rix of Kent’s Kelsey Farms predicts that his business will lose about 50 tonnes of raspberries (5 per cent of the crop) due to labour shortages at the time of harvest in 2021, in addition to losses due to extreme weather. “We’re really struggling with the cost of picking, and we’ve come to the point where it’s cheaper to actually pull out the field than to bring in a new slow picker,” he said. “I won’t make any money this year … I’m sitting at my desk holding my head to exercise next year. We’ll try to keep growth down and spread the crop better.”
Justin Emery, director of Fruitful Jobs, one of the four labour institutions approved under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme said, “There are not enough placements in 2022. Growers are reducing the size of their crops, especially in Scotland. Some growers have pulled out strawberries completely. Kent has raspberry growers who have uprooted their crops and no longer plant them.”
Iain Brown of Fife’s Eastern Grangemuir farm, part of the East of Scotland Growers Cooperative, said he would plant 15% less fruit and vegetables next year “just to stabilise the situation.” He added that all the other producers of 20 strong co-operatives specialising in broccoli and cauliflower were reducing crops while the two were considering pulling out the vegetables completely.
Picture caption: Many growers have seen crops go to waste due to a lack of labour.