Today, Felix was feeling quite impatient. Every few minutes, he would walk up to the dorm room window and peek outside. He’d gaze intently at his strawberry crops, groan, and walk back inside.
Verum asked, “What’s going on, Felix?”
“I’m waiting for the strawberries to be ready for picking. It can be tough to predict exactly when this will happen but once they’re ready, there is no time to be wasted,” said Felix.
“Well, if it helps, you’re not the only one facing this problem,” said Verum, “Soft fruit farmers in the United Kingdom (UK) are worried about picking their produce on time. But for them, the issue is more complicated.
UK farmers hire seasonal laborers as soft fruit pickers every spring. Before Brexit, these fruit pickers would come from countries like Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania.
The UK moved out of the European Union (EU) on 31st January 2020. This move is called ‘Brexit’ (a combination of the two words: Britain and exit).
Since then, the number of fruit pickers who returned every season from the European countries has gone down. Last year, people from Ukraine filled this gap. Due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, this isn’t possible now. Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 years have to compulsorily fight this war.
However, the UK farmers are in dire need of labor and at the right time. Otherwise, their crop will go waste. This is a huge problem in the UK. According to the British Berry Growers (BBG), soft fruits worth £36m were wasted last year. The total production was £760m.”
“What is their solution to this problem?” said Felix.
“These farmers are looking further away for laborers. This year, fruit pickers have arrived from faraway Asian countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan,” explained Verum, “But there is a bit of a problem here. These fruit pickers have to be trained which means they’re slower at their work. This delay can also lead to crop wastage.”
“So complicated!” said Felix.