U.K. fears farm labor shortage pending immigration policy changes

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U.K. fears farm labor shortage pending immigration policy changes

United Kingdom berry producers may face labor shortages with immigration rules set to change for Romanians and Bulgarians.

Citizens from the two nations are currently allowed to work on U.K. farms for up to six months under the seasonal agricultural workersstrawberries_ffp scheme.

However, an end to work restrictions at the close of the year would open Romanians and Bulgarians up to more workforce possibilities. The pending change has sparked controversy over who will take the most difficult agricultural jobs once more desirable options are available.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Migration Advisory Committee chair, Professor John Metcalf, asked the big question circulating in British media: “Who’s going to pick the strawberries?”

"The question is, in 2014, when the Romanians and Bulgarians get completely free access to the labour market, will they decide that they would rather go to work in hotels, or pubs, or Tesco, and therefore will there be enough people to pick the strawberries?" he said in The Telegraph.

“Farmers are wanting a scheme from outside the EU at a time when we’ve got 25 million unemployed in the EU. It’s a difficult one.”

Metcalf could not estimate how many Romanians and Bulgarians would come to work in the U.K. once restrictions were lifted, although a report on the subject is expected in two months.

“We might get asked to take a look at the lower skilled end of the British labour market and in some senses why it is that there seems to be a preference from some employers for E.U. workers instead of British workers," he told the paper.

“That would be wider than just the Bulgaria and Romania issue.”

An estimated 21,250 Romanians and Bulgarians work picking fruits and vegetables on U.K. farms under the current employment scheme.



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