Wimbledon strawberry farmer warns of post-Brexit staff shortage


The owner of the farm that provides Wimbledon with its strawberries has said she hopes there is a mechanism for European citizens to work seasonally in the UK after Brexit.

Marion Regan, who owns Hugh Lowe Farms in Kent with her husband Jon, relies on seasonal labour to make sure the tennis championship is supplied with fresh fruit throughout the tournament.

The farm sends about 28,000kg (61,700lb) of strawberries to the event each year, most of which is picked by eastern Europeans.

Regan said: “In common with lots of other horticultural producers, such as apple growers and salad growers, we all depend on having a really good supply of seasonal labour to help hand-harvest our crops, and we are extremely lucky on this farm to have some fantastic people predominantly from eastern European Union countries who come here for the summer.

“I very much hope that when we leave the European Union there will still be a mechanism by which these great young people are still able to come here.”

Last week a report commissioned by British Summer Fruits, the industry body that accounts for 97% of berries supplied to UK supermarkets, warned that strawberry and raspberry prices could rise by up to 50% as a result of Brexit.

The BSF chairman, Laurence Olins, said: “This is as extreme as it gets. If we do not have the pickers, we do not have a soft fruits industry.”

The report says 95% of seasonal fruit pickers in Britain come from the EU.

The BSF urged the government to allow labourers from Europe to work in Britain after Brexit on fixed-term contracts to fill the vacancies it says British people do not want.


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