The cold of spring and the rainiest summer of decades have not been the only problems this year for UK winemakers.

The lack of labor that appeared with the departure of seasonal workers from Romania and other Eastern European countries after Brexit has put British wine growers in a “nightmare situation”, Euronews reports.

The English are not reliable. The representative of one of the main recruitment companies for the agricultural sector said that out of 50 English people who applied for a job, only 20 completed the documents and only 5 went to work. Of all, only one 60-year-old woman remained until the end.

Julia Trustram Eve, director of marketing for Wine GB, says the Brexit situation has been exacerbated by anti-Covid restrictions, with the two factors leading to a “considerable” reduction in the number of seasonal workers available in England to harvest grapes.

Under these conditions, estimates show that tens of thousands of vineyard workers will be needed in this country next year.

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Dermot Sugrue, a winemaker from West Sussex, a region in the south of England and known for its sparkling wine, reinforces what Trustram says.

“Brexit has caused the biggest crisis this industry has ever faced,” he told Euronews. “It simply came to our notice then. It’s an absolute nightmare, “said Sugrue.

As the traditional method of harvesting champagne grapes involves picking hand-picked grapes, Sugrue needs a huge number of workers in a very short period of time. Mechanization is not possible.

These problems have severely affected what was recently considered a success story of British industry. In the last 5 years, almost 6 million vine cuttings have been planted in the south of England, enough to produce 18 million bottles and create thousands of jobs in rural areas, especially in management, sales. and marketing.

British wine exports doubled before Brexit and the pandemic broke out, reaching 550,000 bottles in 2019. WineGB expects around 30-40% of UK wine to be exported by 2040.

Romanian workers, irreplaceable. The English don’t care

Concerns that seasonal workers have not returned after Brexit have been compounded by the finding that local workers are unreliable.

The representative of one of the main companies recruiting labor for the agricultural sector described for Euronews how the producers tried to replace with local workers the labor force usually composed of Romanians.

He said that out of the 50 people who applied for the job, only 20 later completed the necessary documents to start working.

However, when it came time to harvest, only 5 of the applicants showed up for work and only one was left until the end, a 60-year-old woman.

“Apparently, there are no skilled and productive people in the UK,” he concluded.


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