Tay­side and Fife farms fear drop in mi­grant work­ers

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - JoNaThaN waT­soN

The Govern­ment is un­der grow­ing pres­sure to ex­plain how Brexit could im­pact on Tay­side and Fife’s farm­ing in­dus­try.

There are wide­spread fears mi­grant labour­ers are choos­ing to stay in main­land Europe due to the weak pound. EU work­ers pro­vide nearly all the UK’s sea­sonal work­force on soft fruit farms.

An­drew Faich­ney, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of East of Scot­land Grow­ers, said: “The im­pact would be cat­a­strophic if we can’t get work­ers. The in­dus­try will sim­ply not grow without a work­force.

“The cur­rency is­sue is prob­a­bly the big­gest fac­tor. Work­ers from Europe would see it as a pay cut com­ing here now and coun­tries like Ger­many, Bel­gium and Hol­land are prob­a­bly more ap­peal­ing.”

The SNP’s Perthshire North MSP John Swin­ney and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart have writ­ten to Home Sec­re­tary Am­ber Rudd call­ing for as­sur­ances for the £115 mil­lion a year soft fruit sec­tor.

Mr Swin­ney said: “The farm­ers I have spo­ken to are call­ing out for clar­ity. I hope that the home sec­re­tary will pro­vide an­swers in the very near fu­ture.”

Mr Wishart, who vis­ited lo­cal farms to dis­cuss the is­sue, said: “The soft fruit sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar re­quires a lot of for­ward plan­ning in terms of crop plant­ing and the or­gan­i­sa­tion of staff to pick the fruit.

“We can­not have a sit­u­a­tion where farm­ers have fruit with­er­ing in the fields post-Brexit.”

Barns­muir Farm, near Crail, em­ploys around 350 pick­ers ev­ery year but owner Rob Stock­well said he ex­pects a drop of up to 15% in his work­force next year.

He said: “We are plan­ning ahead now and have spo­ken to labour providers that we use in the UK and a cou­ple in Latvia and Ro­ma­nia.

“At the mo­ment we are not plan­ning on plant­ing less. We hope we get the num­bers of peo­ple that we need, (but) we have got to carry on with the plans we have and try to en­cour­age peo­ple to come over.”

Wil­lie Ren­nie, Lib­eral Demo­crat MSP for North East Fife, said: “There have been three farms I have spo­ken to that have all cob­bled to­gether a work­force, but they are strug­gling.

“There is also a feel­ing among some work­ers that they might not be wanted, and that is driv­ing peo­ple away. I re­ally fear for a sec­tor that has grown dra­mat­i­cally on the back of East­ern Euro­pean labour.”

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