Aberdeenshire soft fruit business grows

Unimpressed by the uncertainty it faces due to Brexit, Barra Berries has doubled the size of its soft fruit processing capacity. David and Sarah Stephen, who have developed a farm shop, lodges and an event venue on the Barra Farm in recent years, have further expansion ambitions.

The couple plan to extend the Barra Berries shop and cafe to meet growing demand among visitors and tourists keen to taste the fruits of Aberdeenshire. The Stephens have expanded area dedicated to growing strawberries, raspberries and blackberries from 20 to 30 acres.

The farm usually employs 70 workers in its busy soft fruit growing season, with several hailing from EU countries. As the pool of migrant workers has decreased, the Stephens have resorted to using employment agencies to recruit staff in the last 12 months which has increased the overall costs.

Mr Stephen believes the current uncertainty is to blame for workers’ reluctance to commit to UK working opportunities. Nevertheless, he said agencies have told him they are confident of being able to provide staff following the March 29 Brexit deadline.

He told pressandjournal.co.uk: “If I look at this from the perspective of the individual who is considering employment in the UK – they will understandably be asking: Will I be welcome? What documentation do I need? How will the weak currency affect my income? At the moment no one has these answers.”

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