Farmer's £40K of wasted fruit

A FARMER has claimed that nearly £40,000 worth of raspberries and strawberries have been left to rot after government rules caused a crippling shortage of fruit pickers.

Annie Davidson

A FARMER has claimed that nearly £40,000 worth of raspberries and strawberries have been left to rot after government rules caused a crippling shortage of fruit pickers.

Robert Rendall, of Peake Fruit, said restrictions on which nationalities could be employed as seasonal workers had caused problems.

Now he has been left with tons of soft fruit languishing in the fields at his farm in Ardleigh, near Colchester, because there is no-one to pick them.


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Mr Rendall, the third generation of his family to run the farming firm, said: “We have consciously made the decision to walk away from about six tons.

“It has been the end crop of the raspberry fields and we have just had to leave them.

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“It works out to about £39,000 worth of fruit. In fact I cannot believe it's as much as that. It's unbelievable.

“Our annual turnover is between £400,000 and £600,000 so that is quite a percentage just to lose.”

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) warned earlier this year that a lack of workers could cost the UK fruit industry millions.

Part of the problem is the Government decision to reduce the number of workers allowed to enter Britain on a longstanding scheme aimed at foreign students.

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (Saws), which had previously allowed workers from non-EU countries such as Ukraine and Belarus to do the low-skilled picking work in Britain, is this year restricted to citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, who are members of the EU.

But a decision was also made to reduce the number of workers under Saws from 25,000 to 16,250 this summer.

Mr Rendall, who is supporting the NFU in its bid to lobby for changes in the rules, added: “Because we have to legally only use certain countries it means they are not tied into the farm for the season and can come and go, which means we do not have the guarantees we will have all the fruit pickers we need when we need them.

“It was all okay up to a couple of weeks ago. It has been a real problem and in six years of running this farm I have never known it to be as bad.”

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: “We are phasing out low skilled migration from outside the EU because we think businesses should hire those close to home first.

“Some people have told us our immigration reforms are too draconian, but we think they're right for Britain.

“It does not make sense to have in place restrictions on people with rights of free movement and at the same time continue to admit people subject to immigration control to do the same type of work. We continue to monitor the operation of Saws.”

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