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British farmers worry: Who will pick the fruit after Brexit?

After a dozen fruitless calls to large farms, agriculture lobbyists and employment companies, we finally found him.

The rarest of the British berry picker.

Meet Max Hughes, a 20-year-old college student and history major who spends his summer harvesting blackcurrants at the Snell family's farm in Herefordshire. He rides behind a combine harvester all day, standing next to a Czech immigrant and a few suntanned Romanians who speak very little English.

"No matter, you can not hear anything about the noise," Hughes said pointing to the wheel loader next to him, his vibrating metal fingers shaking the currant bushes and transporting the berries to the sorting table via a conveyor belt where Hughes and his teammates took the Leaves, twigs, snails, and occasionally throwing the mouse away ̵

1; whatever you do not want to see in a frozen fruit pack

Britain is now totally dependent on foreign workers to pick its own fruit and vegetables, according to the National Farmers Union, an industry branch -Lobby group, of the 60,000 seasonal workers in the fields last year, was barely one percent British, with the overwhelming majority coming from Eastern Europe, especially from Bulgaria and Romania.

As long as Britain has remained part of the European Union, its doors are through a contract widely open to the "free movement" of its members, including the seasonal La Workers who come for four or five months are paid in British pounds and return home for the winter.

But as Britain prepares to leave the EU and end the era of free movement, farmers panic: who? will the harvest approach next spring?

Already, the lack of labor due to economic shifts has left the rot in the strawberry fields and the high-tech, hydroponic polytunnels, where first-class soft fruits are produced. Jacqui Green, Managing Director of Berry Gardens Breeders' Cooperative, reports a job shortage of 30 to 40 percent this year.

"It's quite grim," said Green. "And it's likely to get worse After the Brexit campaign in 2016, fears about mass migration were of great importance, partly through the claim that millions of Muslims would arrive, for example Turkey joins the EU. (Turkey is not in the Union and has no prospect of joining the future le future.)

Prime Minister Theresa May swears by Britain's exit from the bloc that the country is regaining "control of our borders" and immigration dramatically restrict.

Nevertheless, Brexit critics argue that Britain desperately needs foreign workers – not just "the best and brightest" in finance, technology and medicine to welcome May's promise, but those who have Brighton hotel rooms, men's kitchens in London Cleaning London and Harvest Tomatoes in Norfolk.

With far fewer workers coming from Europe, these jobs must be staffed by British, who are – as the truth says – not very interested or from Belarus or Nepal or the Philippines.

Britain has had such a farmwork program in the past, but it has been scrapped – and now there are growing calls to restart it.

Stephanie Maurel, managing director of Concordia, a recruiting firm that delivers workers to some 200 British farms, said they had virtually zero British] "We had two applications out of 10,000," she said. "It's pretty damned statistically."

Up The question of why Britons are not high at work was recited in the list: early hours, long days, physical tolls, seasonality, lack of affordable transportation, "and quite simply the farms are not in places of high unemployment. "

And, unless you are a local, you live in a trailer. Often a nice trailer, with WiFi, but still.

Maurel said some Britons are working in fewer hiring jobs for agriculture – as a logistics manager or office staff – but even these higher-paying jobs indoors are mostly taken over by Easte. These people said that the rare British workers who try the fruit and vegetable harvest "literally last a week."

Hughes and three other university students are the single British, the berries harvest the Snell family's farm this summer, from a workforce of 300.

"That's pretty, is not it?" said Christine Snell, who owns the award-winning, environmentally sensitive farm with her husband, Anthony "We want to convey the message that if we could recruit British workers, we would, but we can not."

Snell drove a Washington Post reporter to see these exotic British berry workers. They looked hot and dusty, but otherwise like healthy candidates in a reality TV show.

For Hughes, the long working day starts at 5 am and ends in the late afternoon. He said with overtime and bonuses for quick sorting, he could do nearly $ 4,000 for six weeks of six-day work. The worst part, he said, is the dull, repetitive nature of work. He zones by listening to music through his earphones. "It's not a bad summer job," he said.

But he and his buddies think they understand why so few Brits want farm jobs.

"Many kids would never do that kind of work," said Lewis Hiscox, 24, a recent graduate of Harper Adams University, who also worked on the blackcurrant harvester. "They'd rather try London for more money, more fun. There's also the snob thing. Farm work is associated with Eastern Europeans, meaning "work for poor people." "

Many observers have suggested that Britons today are" too lazy "to do the farm work of their yeoman ancestors, Hiscox said that physically," The British The Worker could definitely do that job. "He said the work provides" outdoor living "and adequate pay for a young person.

Elliot Packham, 22, who just graduated from Cardiff University, wondered," If the pay was better , could more try? "He noted that strawberries cost more then

" So there's the economy of it, "he said.

Some British commentators have suggested that perhaps recently released criminals on farms – such were German prisoners of war during the

Others have wondered if healthy and hearty Britons living on welfare could be made to turn their backs to take strawberries with them if the work would be worth the risk not to requalify for benefits after the end of the season.)

Gabriela Yuganaru, a 50-year-old Romanian crew leader at Snell Farm, has been picking for 10 years. "If it was that hard, why would I come back, your back is sore, okay, a fast picker can make 100 pounds in a day."

She said, "Maybe the government is giving people too much money not to work, I do not know." She said at home that governments are not so generous. "Work better," she said. [196592002] Helen Whately, a conservative party politician, head of the faction faction for fruit and vegetable farmers, said farmers would face labor shortages without Brexit, but vote "The EU has probably made the problem a bit more acute". It has already helped weaken the pound, thereby reducing financial incentives for foreign workers, while improving economies in source countries such as Romania.

Whately is committed to a seasonal farm workers program that could include non-EU countries, allowing pickers to work for a limited period of time.

Other than that? Robot? But berries are notoriously hard to pick mechanically, Snell said.

Adrian Cirstea, the packaging house and logistics manager of Snell Farm, originally from Romania, imagines that after Brexit, British breeders will be looking far and wide for work

"They will have to go further east and further south," he said to Africa and Asia to find workers, meaning that Britain could see the same number of foreigners farm workers, but fewer Bulgarians and more from Eritrea and Moldova, possibly even Turkey 9002] The Washington Post's first publication

Adam of The Washington Post reported from London.

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