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Seasonal worker shortage having “devastating impacts”

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The NFU has warned that the continued failure to solve the labour crisis in agriculture and horticulture is “having devastating impacts.”

In a letter to The Grocer, Ali Capper, chair of the NFU horticulture and potatoes board, wrote: ‘The current Brexit situation is deeply frustrating for many growers, who are keen to move on from the current Brexit impasse. We want to know how we can solve the ongoing shortage of seasonal workers.

‘It is having devastating impacts. The sector has seen an unprecedented scale of waste this year on farms across the country: 16 million apples unpicked; 87,000 pallets of raspberries unpicked; 63,000 punnets of blueberries unpicked; 5,500 packs of French beans unpicked; 50 tonnes of strawberries unpicked; 25 tonnes of blueberries unpicked; 25 tonnes of cherries unpicked.’

In another interview she told The Independent, “”I think it is morally reprehensible that we are allowing this level of food waste.”

The letter came as a new report by the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, which has previously said that agriculture should not expect to rely on cheap migrant labour, accepted that immigration programmes are a ‘swift and reliable’ way to increase the labour force in Scotland.

Andrew Faichney, managing director of Scottish vegetable cooperative ESG, told reporters last week that securing labour was now the most pressing issue for his 16 grower members. “We’re calling on government to be more proactive and commit to increasing this year’s pilot Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to much more than 2,500,” he said.

He also added that trying to maintain moral of the workers who are in the UK is becoming increasingly difficult: “The workers on farms are subject to scaremongering and it’s difficult to dampen down their concerns once they start. They feel unwelcome, they worry they won’t be able to leave the country or be able to get money out, and they’re frightened the currency will be devalued.”

Photo caption: The NFU estimates that 16 million apples have been wasted this year due to labour shortages

Photo source: flickr

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