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Tons of mushrooms are discarded as growers struggle to find laborers

As part of the producer group Waveney Mushrooms, Chris Haylock and his wife Laura run a business in Swainsthorpe in Norfolk, growing 20 tons of mushrooms per week. However, they also encountered the concerns from other parts of the horticultural sector over the loss of EU workers after Brexit - while many Russian and Ukrainian workers who had filled some of those vacancies last year are no longer available because of the war.

Haylock said he previously recruited mainly from Bulgaria, but now only those with UK settled status are able to return following the end of free movement to and from the EU. And, while he has been able to make use of the government's seasonal workers scheme for summer fruit and vegetable pickers, the six-month visa is not a viable long-term solution for his business, which grows mushrooms all year round under polytunnels.

As a result, they have been forced to throw away up to three tons of the fast-growing mushrooms if they are not harvested in time at the end of the six-week growing cycle.

"It is a constant battle," said Mr Haylock. "Ideally we need 26 trained pickers. We have got 21 staff at the moment, but three are on holiday, and we are unable to recruit Bulgarians unless they already have settled status. We are being told to use English staff, but we have not been able to find English people to do this work."


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