With an estimated shortfall of about 80,000 workers and the UK entering its peak picking season, pressures to bridge a rising farm work gap have seen a spike in labour costs, which have been ‘exacerbated’ by a lack of returns paid for British produce.
“We are seeing a marked increase in labour costs as a result of the added pressures of higher staff turnover and the decreased output of inexperienced workers.”
NFU Scotland horticulture committee chairman James Porter added: “With the cost of minimum wage rising by 6 per cent alongside inexperienced workers contributing to lower output yields, which has seen a reduction of about 4p per punnet, growers are facing substantial losses.”
Despite nationwide government-backed recruitment campaigns such as Pick for Britain generating high levels of interest in picking roles, very few applicants had been offered jobs. When British workers were taken on by farm businesses, many quit their roles soon after.
Ukrainian workers arriving
The first few charters from Kiev have arrived in the UK at Heathrow and Edinburgh and the workers are now at their farms in quarantine. There is the second Edinburgh charter planned on 25 June.
Wizz Air have now put on four-weekly flights direct from Kiev to Luton and the first one landed last week and in future labour provider Concordia will use this route to bring staff to England while keeping charters for Scotland.
Russian and Georgian visa offices will be open on 29 June with Russian and Georgians in the UK from mid-July. Moldova and Barbados do not have a reopen date but it could be early July. A flight ban to the UK from Romania is in place although most participants are switching to a 48 hour bus. Flight refunds could take six months.