The future of Scottish soft fruit production hangs in the balance until Westminster approves proposals for a seasonal workers scheme.
The blunt message was delivered by Scotland’s farmers’ union to the UK’s environment, food and rural affairs committee which is taking evidence on the industry’s future labour requirements.
Farms in Scotland have said they need 10,000 seasonal staff for six to nine months of the year.
In evidence to the committee, NFU Scotland (NFUS) horticulture committee chairman James Porter emphasised that despite the vast majority of businesses attempting to recruit from the domestic population this year, the success rate was just 15%, and the harvest was only successful because travel restrictions in Europe were lifted in time to allow seasonal workers to come to Scotland.
He added: “A fully functional, sector-specific scheme for non-UK seasonal workers is the only available option to ensure that seasonal labour needs in Scotland are met.
“Government must accept that this is not an issue that is confined to the domestic labour market or the future points-based immigration system. It is a sector-specific, labour input challenge which requires a specific response from UK Government.
“If a fit-for-purpose seasonal workers scheme is not in place for 2021, then our members have indicated that there will be significant crop loss, with many moving out of seasonal horticulture altogether.”