UK growers have warned that their government’s proposals on seasonal workers could mean 'the end of the Scottish strawberry'. The current maximum of 10,000 non-EU workers to fill seasonal worker roles has been labelled as a 'drop in the ocean' of what is needed to satisfy the industry's actual labour demands.
Soft fruit growers have called on the UK government to extend the new SAWS to at least 70,000.
Chairman of Angus Soft Fruits, Lochy Porter, said around 4,000 seasonal workers were employed by Angus Growers, which provides fruit to Angus Soft Fruits. "We work hard to recruit local workers and pay average wages well above the living wage but, by definition, a seasonal job is less attractive than a permanent one. In the summer months, fruit ripens incredibly fast, which is why we rely on non-UK workers for the short and medium term to pick our crops. The announcement of a points scheme and the end of access to our labour market for manually skilled workers will mean the effective end of the UK production of many horticultural products.”
"If the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme is not made permanent and expanded, it could even mean the end for the Scottish strawberry. Not only would this be a disaster for growers across the country, but the public would lose some of their most loved berries. Instead, they will be left to buy substantially more expensive fruit imported from the EU picked by workers previously available to UK growers."