Summer brings boost for fruit growers in Scotland

This summer "has seen many of Scotland's fruit growers benefit from supermarkets putting more local produce on their shelves", though labour costs and availability remain concerns, according to NFU Scotland.

Its horticulture working group chairman James Porter said: "Some early strawberries yielded very well while main crop yields were probably a little below average. It's impossible to say how fruit yields have been overall as there has been a lot of variation from across the country."

The "slightly cool" summer in Scotland has meant crops are around a week later than usual, but this has prevented sudden gluts, so helping to sustain supermarket and wholesale prices, he said.

"Generally the two biggest concerns for growers right now will be long-term availability of labour and the National Living Wage (NLW)," he explained. "Growers and their employees need assurances as soon as possible that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme or equivalent will be reinstated after Brexit."

Meanwhile, he added: "We have experienced an unprecedented minimum wage rise of 11.3 per cent this year once holiday pay and employers' National Insurance is taken into account. We have no means of recovering this kind of increase at the point of sale."

Aberdeenshire grower Ross Mitchell said: "The market though has been very strong with fruit sales continuing to rise year on year. Whether it's enough to combat the ongoing NLW increase is yet to be seen."

Perthshire fruit grower Peter Thomson said: "Cherry prices have held up well as the English crop has been less than half of expectation. Blueberries have also held up well as demand is rising over 25 per cent per annum, and supermarkets are also favouring UK fruit over imports."

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