Scottish broccoli is clearly not scarce in supermarkets around Westminster yet.
Maybe we’re just not close enough to Christmas for politicians to care about food shortages – or perhaps the UK Government is banking on any future supply issues being resolved by importing fruit and veg from Spain or Poland?
Because it would appear that the crisis currently raging in Scottish vegetable fields, with farmers helplessly watching acre after acre of premium-quality food ripen and then rot when seasonal pickers and transport aren’t available to handle it, is being casually brushed aside.
This ongoing financial disaster isn’t a result of bad weather or poor management; the loss of essential seasonal agricultural labour is largely a direct result of government policy.
The pandemic may have played a part, but freedom of movement has ended, many EU workers have left the UK, the roll-out of the Seasonal Worker Pilot (SWP) scheme was delayed until the eleventh hour this summer, and the number of visas issued to cope with demand was far too few.
And despite the industry pleading on its knees for more visas to be issued, a Home Office spokesperson told me this week: “To date the sector has used approximately two thirds of the places available, so there is no case for expanding the quota.”
The ill-informed response has infuriated farming leaders who point out that not only have labour contractors confirmed their quotas of workers will be filled long before the end of the year, growers are still waiting for hundreds of people to arrive for autumn harvests.
This crisis isn’t just about the financial consequences of the losses, which are currently £2 million and rising by the day for East of Scotland Growers alone; the impact on farmers’ mental health from seeing months of labour, investment and care for their crops can’t be overestimated.
And in just a few days the first seeds that will become Scotland’s broccoli and cauliflower harvests in 2022 are scheduled to be sown in glasshouses, which means committing another year’s resources to be poured into growing crops without any assurances that this year’s issues will be resolved by the time they ripen.
But, of course, veg growers aren’t the only sector affected by this crisis, and retail industry leaders warned on Friday that food shortages are likely to be permanent – or at least the choices we have grown to expect won’t be available in future.
The sheep grazing Fife’s fields of browning broccoli look like being the only winners this winter.