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FARMERS have had to leave thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables to rot in fields because of the fall in the number of workers coming to Scotland from the EU since the UK voted for Brexit.
One farmer in Fife said he dumped enough vegetables to “feed 15,000 people for a year” because there “wasn’t enough hands” to harvest it.
The NFU hopes an influx of those seasonal workers would fill a workforce gap which was created after a 20 per cent fall in the number of EU workers in some parts of Scotland last year.
Mc Cornick said: “Access to workers remains a key priority, particularly for some very successful parts of our industry that are heavily dependent on non-UK labour.
He has called on Gove to introduce a pilot seasonal scheme in Scotland.
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“This year, there has been a shortage of between 10 and 20 percent of seasonal workers coming from the EU.
To tackle that it is essential that we have a UK Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme in place for 2018 with work permits for up to 20,000 workers from outside the EU.” NFU Scotland’s Horticulture Committee Chairman, James Porter, who grows soft fruit in Carnoustie, said there is “hardly a punnet of Scottish strawberries or a head of broccoli that isn’t picked by non-UK workers”.
“Immigration is a political hot potato, but it is important to note that these seasonal workers would have next to no impact on the UK’s net immigration figures as, seasonal workers would all return home.
“If the political climate in England makes it difficult to introduce a seasonal workers scheme there, I am certain a pilot would be well received in Scotland.” The SNP’s Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins MP said the UK Government’s “lack of action” to help farmers and other food and drink producers “will mean higher prices and more waste”.
“We’re quite big players but Brexit means that is now at risk,” Orr added.