Coronavirus: Lack of labour 'toughest problem' farm has ever faced

Soft fruit supplier Angus Growers, a group consisting of 19 farmers of which James Porter is part of, anticipate a shortfall of 3,200 workers
Soft fruit supplier Angus Growers, a group consisting of 19 farmers of which James Porter is part of, anticipate a shortfall of 3,200 workers

A Scottish farmer has said the current lack of farm labour seen due to the Covid-19 restrictions is the 'toughest problem' he has ever faced.

James Porter, who runs a soft fruit business in Scryne, Angus, is still on the hunt for hundreds of pickers to harvest 1,000 tonnes of strawberries.

But due to the coronavirus travel restrictions, his usual workforce, from eastern Europe, cannot arrive to do the work.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) recently estimated that there could be a shortage of 80,000 workers due to the Covid-19 crisis.



The government has even been urged to help organise charter flights to bring in European agricultural workers to British farms.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Porter said the issue was the 'toughest problem' his business had ever faced.



His 80-acre strawberry crop is ripe within a matter of weeks: "My biggest challenge following the lockdown restrictions is the lack of workforce," he said.

"I would normally be expecting 200 workers to arrive now, but we can't bring them over because everything is in lockdown.

"I'm now looking to people in Scotland who cannot go to work just now because, for example, their offices are closed."

Mr Porter told the broadcaster he has concerns over the skill set of new pickers, as his usual team, who have worked with him for 10 to 15 years, were 'very skilful'.

"It's very hard to pick quickly and skilfully day after day. So I can't expect the same productivity from people as from my top pickers," he said.

"But If we get enough people hopefully we will manage. I am seriously concerned about this situation."

Soft fruit supplier Angus Growers, a group consisting of 19 farmers of which Mr Porter is part of, anticipate a shortfall of 3,200 workers, almost 80% of their workforce.



Last year they produced over 12,400 tonnes of fresh berries for consumers across the United Kingdom.

Mr Porter said his grower group are now encouraging anyone who is looking for work to visit their new recruitment site and apply.

Workers will be paid in accordance with the Scottish Agriculture Wages Order, which is based on the national living wage.

Accommodation is also available on site for anyone who doesn’t live in close proximity to one of the farms, and support and training will be provided.