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11 August 2018 02:40:45 |Crops and Cereals,Government,News

Tonnes of fruit is rotting on farms due to lack of pickers, farmers warn

NFU Scotland said losses for farm businesses that have been impacted are running in to the hundreds of thousands of pounds

NFU Scotland said losses for farm businesses that have been impacted are running in to the hundreds of thousands of pounds

This season has seen tonnes of soft fruit rotting on farms because of problems sourcing pickers, a farming union has warned.
According to NFU Scotland, the lack of workers has caused a "considerable loss" to individual businesses and the wider rural economy.
In response to this, farmers in Scotland are pressing Westminster on the need for a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) for workers outside the European Economic Area to be introduced as soon as possible.
NFU Scotland has called for a SAWS pilot to be set up this year, with a full SAWS scheme available in Spring 2019.
A Brexit priority for the farming union is securing the significant numbers of permanent and seasonal non-UK staff needed to underpin Scotland’s food and farming sectors.
'60 tonnes of strawberries'

Looking to break the deadlock on seasonal workers, Horticultural Chairman, James Porter, hosted a visit by the Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes MP at East Scryne near Carnoustie.
Local MP Kirstene Hair also attended along with Fife-based soft fruit and veg grower Tom Stockwell, Barnsmuir Farm, Crail.
And last month, NFU Scotland took a cross-party group of MPs from Westminster’s influential Scottish Affairs Committee to visit West Jordanstone Farm at Alyth.
There, the Marshall family had already had to leave 60 tonnes of strawberries and raspberries to rot due to a lack of available staff to pick them.
Mr Porter said: “We have repeatedly raised our concerns regarding the availability of seasonal and permanent labour in the agriculture and food processing industries with the Home Office.
“There has been recognition by many politicians and several committees at Westminster of the issue but little action to date. I urge Government to trial a new SAWS scheme for workers from outside the EU now, and not wait for the Migration Advisory Committee to report in the autumn, as by that time it will be too late to have something in place for spring 2019. "
'Hundreds of thousands of pounds'

The Irish Government has already heeded its industry’s concerns about labour shortages and implemented a trial scheme of this sort.
Mr Porter said that such a scheme seen in Ireland is needed "urgently" in the UK.
"Throughout this current season, we have had evidence from several growers that large amounts of crop have been lost due to a lack of labour available to pick," he said.
He said losses for farm businesses that have been impacted are running in to the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“While the soft fruit season is now well through, it is anticipated that the problem will continue if not worsen as the year continues," Mr Porter added.
"We have warned the Government that vegetable and blueberry growers will be short of workers again in the autumn, which will again lead to avoidable crop loss of much needed home-grown fruit and veg."
Despite being a relatively small part of Scottish agriculture, the soft fruit and field vegetable industries are extremely productive – generating more than 10 per cent of Scotland’s annual agricultural output.
NFU Scotland said it is "simply unacceptable" that labour shortages are now "threatening the existence" of Scotland’s horticultural industry.


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