‘Shadow hanging over’ soft fruit industry in Fife

An industry expert says there is concerns about recruiting workers.
An industry expert says there is concerns about recruiting workers.

A lack of clarity over Brexit and a shortage of skilled workers is causing concern for the future of the soft fruit industry in north east Fife, according to an industry expert.

William Houston, chief executive of the fruit producing body Angus Growers – whose membership includes JG Lang and Son and Cairnie Fruit Farm in Cupar – said that while enough workers had been secured for this year, there are concerns over recruiting workers next year.

Mr Houston told the Herald : “It’s looking good this year but there’s a shadow hanging over us next year, because we can’t get answers.”

He added: “Everything we’re hearing about next year is getting worse all the time.”

Explaining the issue of recruiting workers, he said: “There is a shortage of skilled, short-term labour throughout Europe.

“Everyone is short. Ireland, Portugal and other countries have opened up the Visa system for people outside the EU to come and work in their countries.

“We could do that in the UK but we’re not allowed.

“British Summer Fruits has been putting a lot of information to the governments about what the industry needs.

“We’ve had a good response from the Scottish Government and Michael Gove, but labour immigration policy is a Home Office issue, and at the moment they are still to make their mind up.”

Mr Houston explained that the economies of some of the eastern European countries inside the EU are developing quickly, meaning there is less need for people to travel across to the UK for work.

This means labour might need to be recruited from north Africa or Asia.

“We would like to be optimistic this year and be recruiting for next year, if we need to be recruiting in north Africa,” he said.

Mr Houston also said there were concerns about the Euro/Pound exchange rate, which could affect the income migrant workers were earning.