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Labour shortage for Scottish fruit growers a major concern

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Scottish fruit growers are having major concerns about their labour costs despite the sector enjoying relative prosperity recently. Fewer imports and more local produce on Scottish supermarket shelves has given the fruit sector a lift, but now there are major concerns over labour costs and availability. The introduction of the National Living Wage, coupled with doubts about an available workforce post-Brexit, is causing the industry some concern.

NFU Scotland’s horticulture working group chairman, James Porter, said: “It is impossible to give a clear statement on how fruit yields have been overall, as there has been a lot of variation from across the country. The slightly cool summer in Scotland, in particular, has meant that crops are around a week or so later than usual, but the cooler weather has prevented sudden gluts, leading to a good average price for supermarket and wholesale fruit over the season. Generally, the two biggest concerns for growers right now will be long term availability of labour and the National Living Wage,” said Mr Porter.

John Laird, of Cairnie Fruit Farm in Cupar said: “Brexit is a worry for the fruit industry. If the number of workers is reduced or the process is made more difficult, then we will struggle to survive. Locals are no longer interested in picking, so labour must come from abroad. After a poor spring when low sunlight and temperature affected the early crop, the summer has vastly improved and the later crops have yielded well and produced sweet fruit,” he added. “The fruit picking season should go on into October.”

 

Words & Photo: Chris McCullough

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