UK Farmers Fearful of Brexit When Romanian, Bulgarian Pickers Will Be No More

UK Farmers Fearful of Brexit When Romanian, Bulgarian Pickers Will Be No More

British farmers are seriously worried about an acute shortage of labor they might be faced with because of Brexit as workers from Eastern EU member states such as Romania and Bulgaria will no longer be entitled to work in the UK.

Unless a post-Brexit visa scheme for seasonal workers is approved soon by the UK government, the farmers and growers across Britain are faced with the “soul destroying” prospect of leaving more crops to rot in the fields, Sky News writes in a report.

It points out that only 0.6% of the 85,000 agricultural workers who do harvesting in the UK are British, with the uncertainty caused by Britain’s upcoming exit from the EU is already causing crops to rot in the fields.

According to the report, many of the seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers employed so far in the EU have now begun to look for employment in other parts of the European Union because of the lack of assurances they would be able to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Romanians, Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans, who make up the vast majority of the UK crop pickers and pay taxes in Britain, are described as a “vital cog” in British agriculture.

Since the spring of last year, when British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on leaving the European Union, British farmers have been urging the British Home Office to come up with a visa scheme for seasonal workers after Brexit.

The previous such visa scheme existed up until 2013 but was abandoned as freedom of movement within the EU made it obsolete at the time.

According to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) of the UK, the country experiences a 30% shortage in seasonal workers for the agricultural sector, and the political uncertainty generated by Brexit has already made it more difficult to recruit laborers from the Eastern EU.

Farmer Chris Chinn, whose family has harvested crops in the Wye Valley in Herefordshire since the 1920s, and whose business employs up to 1,000 seasonal workers, is cited as saying he had to leave many positions unfilled in the past season.

Chinn describes as “soul destroying” the fact that his business had to leave crops unpicked in the fields twice during the asparagus season.

“Without staff we don’t harvest the crops, if we can’t harvest the crops we are going to stop planting the crops… that means that business disappears and that means those crops disappear from the supermarket shelves,” the farmer said.

(Banner image: Flickr)

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