Up to 40 per cent of Scotland’s growers could simply stop producing food if the country cannot secure the 10,000 casual staff it needs each year going forward.
That was the stark warning the industry made to policy makers in a recent piece in The Scottish Farmer, which warned that the real crunch for labour availability across the UK will come when the country finally leaves the EU at midnight on 31st December 2020.
Chair of NFU Scotland’s specialist crops committee, James Porter, commented, “The industry’s response during the pandemic has shown how vital a reliable, experienced overseas workforce, with a high level of returnees, is to these sectors. While we were successful in recruiting a larger number of local workers this year, the vast majority of the workforce were still sourced from out with the UK. For many years, growers have been unable to fill vacancies from the domestic workforce, and this will continue to be the case as horticulture – an innovative, high-value sector of UK agriculture – invests in its future expansion.”
He warned that more than 40 per cent of NFUS horticultural members who responded to the union’s most recent survey stated that they would cease activity altogether if they could not recruit workers from outside the UK. ““That is why the UK Government must arrive quickly at a decision which genuinely recognises the clear need for Scottish and UK horticultural operators to recruit workers from outside the UK through a sector-specific, seasonal scheme,” he added.
Photo source: NFUS