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Scottish soft fruit need labour commitment

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Scottish fruit grower James Porter has told Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing that the country’s successful soft fruit industry needs a seasonal workers scheme in place by this summer if crop is not to be wasted.

Mr Porter made the comments during a visit by Mr Ewing to co-operative Angus Growers based at Auchrennie near Carnoustie, where the MSP visited polytunnels used to grow strawberries and spoke to workers.

With the soft fruit industry estimated to be worth £134 million to Scotland’s economy, Mr Porter, who is also NFU Scotland’s soft fruit chairman, said, “We urgently need a seasonal workers scheme which will apply to people from out with the EU, because the weakness of the pound no longer makes working in the UK such an attractive option. He added that while his business currently has enough workers, he expects to be 15 per cent short by August, and that EU labour will not be enough to meet demand.

Mr Ewing said that the issue is down to Westminster and that he had pressed Environment Secretary Michael Gove on the issue: “After the second meeting [Gove] said the seasonal workers scheme would come forward soon, then advised ‘complete clarity’ by the end of March. The end of March has come and gone and now the end of April has gone. The UK Government could end this ongoing uncertainty by committing to remaining in the EU single market and customs union. Such a position would demonstrate to seasonal workers that Scotland, and the whole of the UK, remains an open and welcoming place to live and work.”

Photo Caption: Fergus Ewing visited cooperative Angus Growers

Photo Credit: Fergus Ewing

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