Due to a shortage of British and eastern European workers, the number of fruit pickers coming into the UK from abroad has more than doubled this year. More than 16,000 laborers were shipped in from across 37 countries for the 2021 season after being recruited by horticultural farmers - including from as far away as Barbados, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kenya and the Philippines.
In comparison, just 7,000 workers from 14 countries arrived on seasonal workers' visas in 2020. The former number is a result of the UK introducing the seasonal workers' visa scheme in 2019, which allowed pickers to be flown in from any country around the world. The scheme was expanded to allow for 30,000 workers this year, and before Brexit, most of them came from eastern Europe.
Dailymail.co.uk reports that, according to the data, Ukraine provided the most fruit and veg pickers this year, followed by Russia, Belarus and Moldova. Rounding out the top five was Nepal, joint with Bulgaria.
Looking for fruit pickers, an extra 6,000 miles out
This means that fruit pickers are being flown up to 6,000 miles to the UK from Barbados, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kenya, the Philippines and elsewhere because farms cannot find British or European workers.
Farmers said this was a sign of their ever-increasing struggle to recruit enough workers, with some crops left to rot in fields this year and growers forced to consider scaling back production.