Jersey Royal potato crop hit hard by short­age of EU work­ers

Western Daily Press - - News -

THE price of some of the most prized pota­toes in the world could soar as Brexit and Rus­sian Crimean ten­sions have left a short­age of potato pick­ers in Jersey, farm­ers say.

Other fac­tors in­clud­ing an im­prov­ing econ­omy in Poland and a weak pound have also led to a lack of mi­grant work­ers on the is­land – the home of the Royal potato.

To tackle the is­sue, the States of Jersey loos­ened im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy to al­low Ukraini­ans onto the is­land to work as potato pick­ers.

But now, ten­sions with Rus­sia re­sulted in Ukraine declar­ing Mar­tial Law – and all men of mil­i­tary age are not al­lowed to seek out­side work.

Peter Le Maistre, pres­i­dent of the Jersey Farm­ers Union, said: “Our de­mo­graphic for work­ers is young men be­tween the ages of 20 and 30, and that is the first group that is likely to be called up.”

The cur­rent dry weather is en­abling farm­ers to get ahead with plant­ing the 2019 potato crop, but Peter says a few grow­ers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing se­vere staff short­ages.

He con­tin­ued: “Oth­ers have man­aged to find enough work­ers and the dry weather means some farm­ers have been able to use au­to­mated plant­ing equip­ment on the flat­ter land.

“But the côtils have to be planted by hand, and that is where some grow­ers are hav­ing staff prob­lems.”

Sea­sonal work­ers be­gan ar­riv­ing on the is­land ear­lier this month, with the big­gest in­flux due in at the week­end as potato grow­ers step up plant­ing is­land­wide.

Peter con­cluded: “We are look­ing ev­ery­where for work­ers and we have some­where in mind but we have not yet sorted out con­tracts.

“I would rather not say where it is yet un­til we have those con­tracts in our hands, but we are hop­ing to get some peo­ple here by early Fe­bru­ary.”

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