worker picking veg farming

Brexit uncertainty caused a shortfall that left fruit & veg unharvested last year

Sir, In this whole Brexit debacle, there is a ‘known known’.

Deal or no deal, Scotland and the UK are getting thrown into a meltdown as far as labour is concerned. We require approximately 10,000 non-UK workers per year for the fruit, veg and horticultural sectors in Scotland alone. These productive, innovative sectors are responsible for 10% of Scotland’s agricultural output.

It is much bigger than that though. The largest manufacturing sector in both Scotland and the UK is food and drink, and a big part of its temporary and permanent labour is non-UK - more than 50% in the red meat sector, over 90% of vets in approved meat establishments, upwards of 30% of the permanent staff in the dairy sector and 40% of staff in egg production.

From field to fork, we are reliant on a supply of competent non-UK labour. The uncertainty around Brexit caused a shortfall that left fruit & veg unharvested in Scotland last year and early demand for labour in the south west of the UK is not being met.

The government must indicate how it will fill the void of 60,000-70,000 seasonal workers needed UK-wide.

It is hiding behind the meagre allowance on the seasonal worker pilot scheme of 2,500 people from outside the EU. This figure is pitiful given the number of EU citizens turning their back on the UK because of Brexit uncertainty.

Deal or no deal, our economies need a supply of plentiful and competent labour for it to work.

Andrew McCornick, president, NFU Scotland