Scotland’s Specialist Growers Prepare to Reset, Restart and Recover from Stormy Times

As Scotland progresses through the first phase in easing lockdown restrictions, Scotland’s horticulture and specialist crops sectors are preparing to reset, restart and recover from very stormy times.

The Union has recognised that resetting and restarting as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis will provide significant opportunities for Scottish farmers, crofters and growers.  All NFU Scotland’s commodity committees and working groups – combinable crops, livestock, milk, pigs, poultry and specialist crops – have identified key steps and actions needed.

For those growing specialist crops like soft fruit, vegetables, potatoes and ornamentals, the priorities are the following:

  • The ongoing recruitment and employment of UK and non-UK workers and the production of guidance for safe working.
  • Negotiations with fresh market buyers on varieties and standards to minimise wastage.
  • Lobby UK Government to agree 2021 opening of permanent Seasonal Worker Scheme with quota for 70,000+ workers.
  • Push for decision on phytosanitary rules in the EU that would permit UK-grown potatoes to be exported at the end of 2020
  • Emphasise role of specialist growers in food security and wider rural economy.  
  • Fairer and more balanced retailer supply chains.

Horticulture committee Chair James Porter said: “These have been stormy times for horticulture. Lockdown came at an awful time for the daffodil harvest with most remaining unpicked in the fields and some big losses for growers.

“Garden centres and plant nurseries have had to remain shut throughout almost all of May, when they normally expect over 30 percent of annual sales.  Although now allowed to open, that closure has been a big blow to the ornamental sector and reopening could not come quick enough.

“Concerns over travel restrictions on seasonal workers led to us setting up an employment page on the NFUS website.  There has been a huge response, many furloughed workers applied and are already working on farms. That is only a stop gap however, as these people are likely to return to their old jobs and we need to ensure that fruit and vegetables can continue to be picked efficiently in Scotland.

“It remains vital that, as travel restrictions ease, we can still safely bring in highly-skilled returning workers from abroad.  A huge amount of work has been put in to establishing safe working practices for all our workers and NFUS has played big part in feeding into the guidance that Scottish Government recently published.

“I gave evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee at the end of last week on our ongoing call for seasonal and permanent workers to be able to come to the UK when the EU transition comes to an end in December. Horticulture requires this workforce and without help from our friends from the east we won’t be able to navigate our way through these stormy times.”  

Notes to Editors

  • NFU Scotland sees the role of all farmers and crofters as central to Scotland’s Covid-19 recovery process given the range of economic, environmental and social benefits they can deliver.  NFUS believes Scottish agriculture should:
    • produce the high-quality food and drink that its customers want.
    • embrace change and seek new market opportunities.
    • lead in the delivery of climate ambitions and a flourishing environment.
    • drive sustainable rural development, helping rural communities thrive and prosper.
    • contribute to key objectives on animal health and welfare and promote human health and well-being.
  • NFU Scotland has initiated reset, restart and recovery plans for different sectors of Scottish agriculture. The sectors covered are livestock, milk, pigs, poultry, specialist crops and combinable crops.   
  • A short video of Horticulture Chair James Porter discussing the Union’s priorities is available to watch on the Union’s Facebook page at:


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 73/20

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