Scottish berry growers looking for workers
A group of Scottish berry growers has launched a large scale recruitment drive to encourage people in Scotland to come and work on their farms.
Angus Growers is a group of 19 Scottish farmers who last year produced over 12,400 tonnes of fresh berries for consumers across the UK. However, this year they are anticipating a shortfall of 3,200 workers, almost 80% of their workforce, as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its impact on workers coming into the UK from mainland Europe.
The UK Government has announced that workers involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food will be classed as critical workers and that their children would be prioritised by education providers.
James Porter, soft fruit grower for Angus Growers, and NFU Scotland’s horticulture chair, explains: “For many years the Scottish berry industry has relied on recruiting workers from mainland Europe to provide seasonal labour to pick our crops due to a severe lack of availability of local workers. Due to ever growing travel restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, we are now facing a shortfall of almost 80% of the workers required in Scotland to pick our crops this season.
“I know that many people are facing redundancy across the travel and hospitality industries and I would encourage anyone who is looking for work to visit our new dedicated recruitment site and apply. People might have a misconception that picking fruit doesn’t pay that well, however all our growers pay in accordance with the Scottish Agriculture Wages Order, which is based on the national living wage. Accommodation is available on site for anyone who doesn’t live in close proximity to one of our farms, and full support and training will be provided.
“Thankfully, the risk of spread among farm workers is relatively low due to the open air nature of harvesting activity; farms unlike offices, are large places where people can spread out.”
Angus Growers is also working closely with the National Farmers Union Scotland to ensure agricultural and farming businesses across Scotland can continue to produce high quality food throughout the outbreak.
James said: “Today we’ve launched a recruitment drive for our berry growers, however we’re also looking at how the wider food supply industry can work together to ensure the continued supply of high quality food. I would encourage anyone working in the food supply industry to please reach out to me to ensure we all work together for the good of the nation.”