Fife farmer warns of shortage of 1500 workers needed for Scottish fruit picking season
A Fife farmer claims Scotland could be up to 1500 workers short of the 10,000 needed to ensure a full season goes ahead this year.
Iain Brown from Easter Grangemuir Farm, Pittenweem, says the UK Government has left it too late to have a visa scheme for foreign workers fully operational.
Mr Brown fears some fruit may not be picked and left to rot.
He said: "There's a demand for the fruit, the customers want the fruit, but the growers need to harvest the fruit and vegetables.
"The biggest frustration is the issue was highlighted to the politicians and they haven't followed through with their promises."
Willie Rennie MSP for the North East Fife, said: “North East Fife relies both on the migrant workers to support the economy and the fruit being sold to support our farmers.
“It is an enormous priority to ensure that we can support everyone in the supply chain of this important industry.
“The pandemic has thrown many industries and sectors into flux and much of it has been out of our control, but the effect of Brexit cannot be under stated.
“The UK Government has made a choice to pursue this agenda, which has left the costs and the availability of this work out of reach to many.
“Just as they have made this choice, they can undo it and make the system fairer and more accessible so that we can ensure we have the workers we need this summer. I am calling on the UK and Scottish Governments to find a solution to this problem.”
In December 2020 the Government said “The number of workers permitted to travel to the UK to pick and package fruit and vegetables will be increased for next year’s harvest (2021).
"The Seasonal Workers Pilot, originally launched in 2019, has been extended and expanded for an additional year with 30,000 visas available for those wanting to come and work on UK farms for a period of up to six months. The workers will play a vital role in helping horticulture growers pick and package their produce in 2021, whilst reducing their reliance on migrant labour as we exit the EU.
"The Government will actively promote the recruitment and retention of domestic seasonal workers in 2021.”