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UK Farmers Look Farther Afield to Replace Ukrainian Workers

  • War is cutting off supply of seasonal laborers as fruit ripens
  • Agencies recruiting from Tajikistan, Nepal to make up shortage
Fruit pickers make their way towards an orchard for an apple harvest in Coxheath, UK.
Fruit pickers make their way towards an orchard for an apple harvest in Coxheath, UK.Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is choking off a vital supply of labor for the UK’s apple, strawberry and raspberry farmers, forcing them to recruit migrant workers from nations where the risks of exploitation may be greater.

Ukrainians received about 67% of Britain’s 30,000 seasonal visas for farm work last year, but that percentage is falling as the government in Kyiv enlists people to fight in the war. With crops ripening, British growers are turning to countries such as Tajikistan, Moldova and Nepal to make up the difference, but that may not be as simple as it sounds, according to a report by London-based charity Work Rights Centre.