This is the terror of British operators: ripe fruits, but too few people to reap the benefits. In Kent, the "Garden of England", picking has already begun, but since Brexit, some seasonal workers from Eastern Europe are missing.
The situation has fueled Anthony Snell's concerns for three years. "It could become very serious if we do not find the necessary manpower, worries this producer of strawberries. Yet our wages have increased 19% in two years. " On his Kent farm, one out of ten farm workers did not return this year.
"It could be a disaster for farmers and for the whole economy of the United Kingdom"He is alarmed, yet this farmer has voted in favor of Brexit, and continues to support it, but with some conditions:"I am in favor of an orderly Brexit, although for the moment we do not see the color. I think that the free movement of people must be preserved to safeguard the profitability of our economy. "
Drastic drop in the UK job demand
In the United Kingdom, the unemployment rate fell below 4% this year, the lowest rate in 45 years. Before Brexit, there were four candidates for a job. Now, this ratio has reversed: according to the largest temporary agency in the country, there are now four jobs for a single candidate.
This situation is explained in particular by the fact that working conditions on the continent have improved significantly. European farms have become over-cultured: much more efficient, and much more practical.
The Netherlands and Germany siphon the labor of Eastern Europe
In Anthony Snell's greenhouses, employees pick up strawberries for an average of 17 pounds per hour – not enough to compete with EU farms in Germany and the Netherlands in particular.
According to Stephanie Maurel, of the Concordia agency, these two countries have sucked labor from the Eastern countries who used to cross the English Channel for the harvest season. "There, the government is very supportive of agricultural work, with tax exemptions for example, explains the British. On the other hand, producers have invested heavily in German and Dutch farms, so they have grown very quickly, and they need a lot of labor."
Difficulties in retaining seasonal work force
On some farms in England, farmers began to poach employees. "I think they're desperate to look at their strawberry fields and say, 'I do not know if we can pick them up,'" Stephanie Maurel analysis.
Another structural factor: employee compensation is dependent on the pound sterling. However, since 2016, the British currency has lost 15% and falls again, regularly.
Claudiu Netoiu is an agricultural supervisor in Anthony Snell's strawberry farm. According to him, for three years, planning teams has become a headache: "We have people who, at the last moment, decide not to come. One day, we will have a team of 50 people, and the next day we will have only 40 "he laments.
There are currently 10 to 15,000 farm workers missing for this season in England. All British fruit producers are affected, even those who voted for Brexit.