The East of Scotland Growers (ESG) group has estimated that 3.5 million heads of broccoli and 1.9 million heads of cauliflower will have to be scrapped as a result of the labour crisis. In an online blog posted last week, ESG managing director Andrew Faichney said the issue was compounded by the lack of lorry drivers required to distribute the produce.
The problems would ‘have a devastating impact on this year’s production’ said Faichney. “But of possibly even greater concern is that I am not sure where we see the end of the problems – therefore losses will continue to accumulate.” Ignoring harvesting, haulage, and packaging, the losses carried a direct growing cost of somewhere in the region of £1.1m, he added.
“We were unable to provide the oversupply of vegetables to the freezing industry as the pea season was in full flight. We should have started our freezing production last weekend but, as yet, we haven’t frozen a single floret of broccoli. The delay in freezing is a result of a lack of lorries to haul frozen product out of freezer stores to retail depots. With a shortage of lorries, retailers are prioritising short shelf-life products – the net result being storage is now at capacity, and there is nowhere to store processed product.
On-farm labour issue
“The haulage issue looks likely to remain, which is fundamentally driven by labour availability. Of even greater significance is the on-farm labour, with around 80% of the required workforce on farm, workers have been earning above budget income due to level of overtime required.
“The fear is that these workers will head home earlier than required due to reaching their own financial target. They are actually starting to disappear off farm already, where historically we have relied on workers finishing the fruit season and migrating over to field veg in the months of September and October.”