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Fruit Farmers on the Brink of Collapse due to Labour Shortage

Byline TV went across Kent, a county that overwhelmingly voted leave during the 2016 referendum to talk to some of the fallen giants of the fruit industry. British farms produce 3.5 million tonnes of fruit per year, an industry that is often able to supply 100% of the UK’s demand. 

This access to locally produced fruit however will soon vanish according to Stephen Taylor, a berry farmer from Margate, who stresses that our standards will go once farms become unable to meet the demand following huge droughts in labour. 

“90-95% of fruit produce across the whole country is harvested by Eastern European people.” said Stephen, who employs around 3,000 workers – most of them from Polish backgrounds who often come to the UK temporarily to do necessary work to keep up with the UK’s high demand for fruit. 

“Because of Brexit, you cannot legally work in this country as from the 1st of July.” says Stephen, citing the deadline of the EU settlement scheme. From next month, people from EU countries must show they have been granted settled status or pre-settled status. “Because of the pre-settled status that these people from Eastern Europe now need to work in the UK, you’ll have roughly 20-30% less people available for the harvesting of fruit.” 

“For the horticulture industry the biggest single problem it is struggling with at the moment is labour.” says David Figgis a farmer and staunch brexiter from Faversham who has now discontinued his growing of strawberries, a very labour intensive crop.

“The small farmer will disappear.”

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