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LABOUR CRISIS: Will Maidstone raspberries and strawberries reach stores?

Friday 22nd May 2020

Major fruit growers and packers around Maidstone still have worries they will be without vital East European labour with the peak season rapidly approaching.

This could impact on the amount of local raspberries and strawberries reaching our supermarkets – and harm several growing and successful farming businesses.

The labour is available in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine and UK farmers expect they can buy seats on charter planes.

But coronavirus is a major problem with some countries unsure if their residents should be allowed to leave and subsequently return. Bulgaria is looking the most likely source.

The British Government is being pressed to relax its 14-day quarantine requirement for these workers and latest sounds are giving farmers more hope.

Tim Chambers of W.B. Chambers Farms, with a major operation in Langley, said they had been recruiting well in the last few weeks but 400/500 were still needed.

He explained that they were not short of approaches from agencies representing UK labour but past experience showed this did not convert well in to longer-term and satisfactory work forces.

Jane Peckham, recruiter for Clock House Farm, Coxheath, said they still had a need for about 650 and she was ‘pretty confident’ the Eastern European labóur would get through in time, subject to support from the British Government.

The tasty news is that both raspberries and strawberries are cropping well and looking good.