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NFUS warns migrant labour shortage a threat to Scottish crops

While the fate of migrant labour has been centre stage in Brexit discussions, a more urgent need to ensure there will be a sufficient workforce to help gather in next year’s fruit and vegetable crops has been raised. 

A call was also made for a UK-wide seasonal agricultural workers scheme that would provide permits for 20,000 migrant workers from outside the EU to supplement the already dwindling soft-fruit labour force, which will be required to pick the 2018 crop.

With Scotland’s soft fruit industry seeing a 10-20 per cent shortage of seasonal workers coming from the EU this year, NFU Scotland’s horticulture committee chairman and soft fruit farmer James Porter said that fewer workers were being attracted from EU member states due to the UK’s poorer exchange rates and growing affluence in other parts of the Continent. 

Stating that the situation was likely to get worse ”year on year”, he said that the industry would be taking the issue up with the Home Office in an attempt to secure short-term measures to keep the wheels of the fruit and veg sectors turning.

Speaking following discussions with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – the body charged with looking at the post-Brexit needs of UK industry – Porter admitted that this fell outwith the body’s remit but said that it emphasised the urgency of the situation. “For a major soft fruit area like Angus, the importance of seasonal workers cannot be underestimated,” he said after the meeting.


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