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UK: Immigration controls 'disaster' for apple industry

Staff writer |
Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, apple growers are facing an uncertain future as the possible implementation of immigration controls could effectively wipe out the majority of their workforce.

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Some farmers in Kent and Sussex are warning they may have to stop producing apples if it becomes more difficult to hire workers from abroad.

At the moment, most pickers come over from Eastern Europe for the season.

But if tighter controls on immigration are introduced, some farmers are warning it could be a disaster for their industry.

Apples and pears are harvested by hand for which seasonal workers are required. Despite enormous efforts by growers, which has included joint action with labour providers, government departments and Job Centres, it has proved impossible to recruit from the UK any more than a small proportion of the numbers necessary.

In short, the British are not prepared to undertake this type of work. Consequently, almost all seasonal workers are from abroad, and at present, mainly from Eastern Europe.

The UK apples and pears sector requires about 12,000 seasonal workers per annum. Unless they can be recruited from abroad, many growers will be forced to cease production which will damage local businesses, local economies, the national economy and deprive consumers from enjoying the finest tasting apples in the world.

Adrian Barlow, Chairman of English Apples and Pears Ltd said: “It is vital that the UK government takes into consideration the essential requirement for seasonal workers from abroad in order to allow the commercial production of apples and pears in the UK to continue, and that policies are implemented accordingly.”

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