Scottish soft fruit growers in Perthshire and Angus are seeing perfectly good produce left behind on bushes due to a shortage of pickers, just as demand peaks during one of the UK’s hottest summers in forty years.
As well as the unprecedented demand, the weather has lead to high yields of fruit which is ripening extremely quickly. These factors, when added to the ongoing labour crisis has created perfect storm which has seen fruit go to waste.
General Manager of Angus Soft Fruits, William Houston, told The Courierthat most producers were “just about” coping, but said that most fields weren’t getting a final pick over to clear up any last fruit.
“The other big issue is that the standard of workers from Eastern Europe isn’t as good as it used to be,” he added. “If we had the same standard as even two years ago they’d all be relishing the busyness, working their guts out picking huge volumes of fruit and everyone would be happy. But there is a huge difference between the best workers who can pick 20kgs an hour and the worst at only 8kg an hour.”
Peter Marshall Fruit at Alyth said it had left 15 tonnes of strawberries and five tonnes of raspberries to rot last week because of a combination of too few pickers and an unusually long period of sunshine which meant the fruit ripened quickly. “The fruit is ripening so fast, by the time the pickers get to the end of a drill they need to start all over again,” commented the firm’s Meg Marshall.
Photo Credit: Claudette Gallant / Public Domain Pictures
The post Scottish soft fruit growers say produce being wasted due to lack of pickers appeared first on Hort News on 18 July 2018.
Farm business advisors at Strutt & Parker have warned UK farmers to continue to be aware of proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) even as the UK prepares for Brexit.
The firm recently highlighted some of the key proposed changes to the CAP for 2021 to 2027 in a briefing paper published on its website. Amongst the key proposals is ‘greater power for Member States to design their own policies, under both Pillars 1 and 2’ which will see ‘each country producing a ‘CAP Strategic Plan’, which sets out how it will meet nine EU-wide objectives.’
In terms of funding, direct payments will be capped at €100,000 (£87,000) and payments above €60,000 will be subject to regression reductions. Overall the budget for Pillar 1 payments will see an 11 per cent reduction in real terms, while Pillar 2 will see a cut of 27 per cent.
Chair of Strutt & Parker’s Farm Research Group, George Chichester said, “These changes are important to the UK as it is still unclear when a British farming policy will apply from, given major uncertainties remaining in the UK-EU withdrawal negotiations, and so we may have to comply with these rules until our British policy is ready.”
The post British farmers need to keep up to speed on CAP reform appeared first on Hort News on 9 July 2018.
English Apples & Pears (EAP), the association for UK top fruit producers, has said that the government must continue to support fruit growers after the UK leaves the EU.
In its submission to Defra’s Health and Harmony consultation, the group called for, ‘A more enabling and holistic regulatory framework for the approval of plant-protection products and to provide parity for UK growers with EU growers before we leave the EU.’ It also called for support for new varietal development, saying that this would help to ‘bolster plant health and pest and disease resistance.’
Overall EAP set out 12 points for action, including continued support for Producer Organisations, labour availability and health & sustainability. EAP chairman Ali Capper commented, “We are asking government to urgently support policy and campaigns that will increase the consumption of British-grown apples and pears. British orchards are capable of delivering public good – it’s good for the environment and the fruit produced is good for the nation’s health too. We’re ambitious to grow the size of the British crop. We know this is possible but we will need action in key areas in order to make this happen.”
Photo Credit: Wye Fruit
The post Top fruit sector calls for post-Brexit support appeared first on Hort News on 17 May 2018.
According to an advisor from Cardiff University who is advising the Welsh Government, Defra is consciously planning for around a quarter of the UK’s farms to ‘disappear’ after Brexit says a report in Farmers Guardian.
Dr Ludivine Petetin told a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) meeting: “A lot of farms are currently profitable only because of direct payments coming from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). From reading the agriculture consultation, it seems to me, and this is going to sound harsh, Defra has made a choice that the 25 per cent of farms which are at the bottom and are not doing very well will perhaps disappear.”
She believes that Defra’s core focus is on how the ‘middle 50 per cent’ of farms can continue to be successful when funding moves from direct payments towards supporting environmental schemes. He added that being outside the EU would see farmers come under pressure as they would not benefit from existing EU tariffs on agricultural imports.
A Defra spokesman said, “Our proposals will see money redirected from direct payments based only on the amount of land farmed to a new system of rewarding farms of all sizes for their work to enhance the environment.”
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The post Claims Defra preparing for 25% of UK farms to ‘disappear’ appeared first on Hort News on 11 April 2018.
A survey of Scottish farmers and growers has indicated that two-thirds of them may quit the industry if they are unable to access EU labour after Brexit, causing fears about the survival of the country’s horticulture sector.
The research, which was conducted by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) last summer, Research by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) showed there were 9,225 seasonal migrant workers in Scotland last year (which it described as a conservative estimate), with the majority involved in picking soft fruit, as well as the field veg and potato sectors.
The survey also suggested more than half of farmers would also consider diversifying their operations due to labour shortages. The survey’s authors said, ‘Brexit has undoubtedly affected the confidence of a proportion of workers and therefore their expectations about returning to Scotland in 2018. Approximately 40 per cent of the surveyed workers were certain they would be returning to Scotland in 2018, with 12 per cent unlikely to return due to having permanent jobs to go to in their home countries, or returning to studies, etc. 46 per cent were uncertain about whether they would return in 2018.’
Around a quarter of workers worked on more than one farm in the UK and there is also transition to other sectors particularly food processing and hospitality. On average, seasonal migrant workers were employed for just over four months per year, corresponding to the key soft fruit harvest period, but the seasonal pattern of crops in Scotland provided an opportunity for workers to work for extended periods.
Photo Credit: pxhere
The post Lack of labour could kill Scottish fruit sector appeared first on Hort News on 29 March 2018.
Concerns about the ability of Defra to cope with the extra volume of work being created by Brexit have resurfaced after Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted that there could now be as many as 70 different Brexit-related work streams.
The statement was made in a letter by Mr Gove to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) which has been published. Back in December 2017 the National Audit Office was predicting that Defra would have 43 Brexit-related work streams. MPs on the EAC have expressed concerns that Defra will be unable to hire the thousands of extra staff required to cope.
In his letter, Mr Gove said plans are in place for all ‘day one’ projects, adding he was “confident” that Defra is focusing its planning on the most complex projects. “All projects have risks attached, which will ebb and flow as the projects mature,” he said. “The department has been closely monitoring plans and risks and completing regular reviews drive out any blockers to progress.”
However, Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said, “We are concerned by how few of the ‘day one’ plans have been published and outlined to businesses and investors, who need clarity about our relationship with the EU during the transition and beyond. From chemicals to climate change, huge regulatory questions remain unanswered. Defra and its agencies have lost almost 5,000 staff since 2010, leaving them struggling to cope with Brexit. We have concerns about the Department’s capability to deliver a growing amount of Brexit-related work, and the cost of hiring new staff.”
Photo Caption: Michael Gove has said there are up to 70 Brexit-related work streams at Defra.
The post Defra struggling to cope with Brexit workload appeared first on Hort News
Geographical protection of products such as Vale of Evesham Asparagus, which is currently provided under the EU’s protected geographical indication (PGI) scheme, is expected to continue after Brexit according to MPs.
In answer to a question from Mid-Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston, Food Minister, George Eustice said that it is the Government’s intention to transfer the existing PGI legislation across into UK law.
According to the Evesham Journal, Mr Huddleston commented, “I was delighted to hear the minister confirm that it is his intention for the existing PGI designations to continue to be recognised post-Brexit and know that this will be welcome news to many of my constituents too. The granting of PGI status by the EU can make a real difference to regional products like Vale of Evesham Asparagus by boosting brand recognition and sales.
“Vale of Evesham Asparagus is a source of great local pride and I was pleased that the Minister spoke of its fantastic reputation both across the country and around the world.”
Photo Credit: Pexels
The post Geographical protection for asparagus to continue after Brexit appeared first on Hort News on 21 March
Civil servants have revealed that the Government’s agricultural bill, which is expected to be published later this year, will include measures and targets to maintain and improve soil health.
However, comments made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove which suggest support could be prioritised or limited to those who practice min- or no-till cultivations have caused anger amongst farmers.
Rebecca Pow, parliamentary private secretary, told The Guardian that the bill would include regulation to meet the targets recent set out in the 25-year Environment Plan. “Healthy soil is essential, and there are ways of measuring it, such as the organic matter in the soil. Farmers can be given incentives to improve soil management, such as by crop rotation. It has taken a long time but I think we have turned the corner on getting soil on the political agenda,” she said.
However, speaking at an event in London last week, Michael Gove said the government would support reduced tillage. “We have to move away from our current system, which lacks effective incentives for long-term-thinking, to one that promotes investment in our shared future,” he said. “That will mean we pay farmers to improve the quality and fertility of their soil… “We want to reverse the trends of the past which have led to compaction and run-off, and which have polluted our rivers and choked our fish.”
Although lacking in details, many farmers have expressed concerns on social media that minimal tillage techniques are not suitable for all soils or crops and that any future approach needs to be flexible enough to reflect this.
Photo Credit: pxhere
The post Farmers to get soil health targets appeared first on Hort News on 21 March.
The National Farmers’ Union has written to The Times to dispute the impression given by campaign group Migration Watch UK in an article that there is no labour crisis on UK farms.
Under the front page headline: ‘Record number of EU workers in Britain despite Brexit vote’ on 16 November, the newspaper referred to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report showing that the number of EU citizens working in the UK is now at a record high of 2.37 million, despite last year’s referendum result.
Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the figures “show that predictions of a ‘Brexodus’ are nonsense,” adding that they threw into doubt claims that food is being left to rot in the fields due to lack of EU migrant labour.
In her letter, NFU Deputy President Minette Batters wrote: ‘The ONS data on EU citizens that your article refers to on the front page… doesn’t account for seasonal workers that come to the UK for less than 12 months – these make up the majority of the workforce. This is where fruit, veg and flowers growers in particular are already experiencing real difficulty. Our latest survey of recruiters in this area shows a worker shortage of 29% in September, raising the average shortfall for the year to 11%.
‘The British farming sector needs commitments from Government that, where needed, there will be sufficient numbers of permanent and seasonal workers from outside the UK in the run up to the UK leaving the EU and beyond.’
Photo Caption: Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK
Photo Credit: YouTube
The post NFU responds to EU labour claims appeared first on Hort News on 22 November 2017.
Defra secretary Michael Gove has said he wants to set up a new watchdog for environmental protection after Brexit.
The announcement, which was made on television and elaborated in an opinion piece on Monday by Mr Gove, has surprised many, particularly as his appointment was criticised by environmental campaigners who worried he would scrap many environmental protections.
Saying that the Common Agricultural Policy had ‘damaged our countryside’ he warned that transferring all existing European law, including environmental protections, into UK law ‘was not enough.’
“Without further action, there will be a governance gap. The environment won’t be protected as it should be from the unscrupulous, unprincipled or careless,” he said. “So we will consult on using the new freedoms we have to establish a new, world-leading body to give the environment a voice and hold the powerful to account. It will be independent of government, able to speak its mind freely.
“And it will be placed on a statutory footing, ensuring it has clear authority. Its ambition will be to champion and uphold environmental standards, always rooted in rigorous scientific evidence.”
He added that the consultation would be published in early 2018.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Michael Gove – UK Parliament official portraits 2017
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