Murdo Fraser MSP has asked the First Minister what assistance could be provided to soft fruit growers facing a workforce shortfall because of the Coronavirus crisis.
The Scottish Conservative politician, who represents the Mid Scotland and Fife region, told Nicola Sturgeon that he is aware of many soft fruit farms who are looking to grow strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, but the farm owners are concerned that there may be a shortage of migrant labour because of travel restrictions imposed in the battle to deal with the Coronavirus.
Commenting, Mr Fraser said: “There are a lot of soft fruit growers in the Perthshire and Fife areas in my constituency who are worried about where their workforce is going to come from. Normally, they would have many workers coming over to pick the fruits from Eastern Europe but now they may not be able to travel to the UK due to Coronavirus travel restrictions.
“I asked the First Minister what assistance the Scottish Government can provide to soft fruit growers to allow them to plant their crops for their summer harvest and was told I will get a written response on the matter.”
Mr Fraser continued: “I understand that there is a shortfall in soft fruit workers just now and many farm owners are very concerned as there is only between four to six weeks before the start of the berry harvest season.
“An established soft fruit farm owner in Angus underlined the problem earlier this week, when he said many farms are facing almost 80% shortfall in workers in Scotland at the moment. I await the reply from the Scottish Government with interest.”
Mr Fraser raised the matter following a Ministerial statement on the Coronavirus from the First Minister at the Scottish Parliament earlier this week.
Here is the question raised by Mr Fraser: Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con):
'Soft fruit growers in my region of Perthshire and Fife are very concerned about the availability of labour to harvest crops in the summer season, because the migrant workers on whom they normally depend might not be able to travel to the United Kingdom. What advice would the First Minister give to those who are looking to plant crops at the present time? What assistance can the Scottish Government give to the sector on accessing the labour that it needs?'
The First Minister:
'Rather than give advice, right now, that might not be the right or the best advice, I undertake to take those questions away and to come back to Murdo Fraser very quickly with advice. We will then disseminate that advice to the wider sector, because it is an important point that we want people to do the right things now in order that they do not compound issues for themselves in the future.'