Issues such as a lack of agricultural labour have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, but Brexit is their root cause, says John Finnie, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.
We approach the harvest season this year in unprecedented circumstances, unlike anything most of us will have experienced in our lifetimes.
There is no industry, no community, in the UK which has not been affected in one way or another by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many people have found themselves out of jobs, while those continuing in frontline services are working in incredibly difficult circumstances, which lots of us can barely begin to understand.
Of course, one of the most fundamental needs of the nation at any time is food.
While it was already understood that the seasonal workforce which our agriculture industry has come to rely on was unlikely to materialise as usual this year, the pandemic simply compounds the situation.
This has led to the almost inevitable, but still deeply disheartening, situation where food producers are chartering flights from Europe.
These flights are bringing the staff needed to ensure that food, as farmers have warned it might, does not rot in the fields.
If you’re reading this, it is unlikely you’ll need to be reminded of how serious the situation is, but it is perhaps not something which has fully filtered through to the public at large.
Sadly, the whole sorry situation serves to underline the basic futility of Brexit.
The NFU has said up to 70,000 fruit and veg pickers are needed and has issued a clarion call for a ‘land army’ of workers from the UK.
A campaign to recruit students and people who may have lost their jobs in the service industry is in full effect.
But there’s no evidence that it’s working, certainly not to the level that will deliver the 70,000 workers cited by the NFU.
While there is evidence that interest in working in the agriculture sector has significantly increased, when it comes to people signing on the dotted line and committing themselves to work, the numbers are simply not there.
Let’s be clear though, this was always going to be the case even before the Covid-19 crisis really started to bite.
Seasonal migrant workers were already less inclined to come to the UK this year, the last year before freedom of movement fully comes to a close, and the numbers will inevitably plummet further when the Home Office’s ill-thought out, impractical and unjust immigration requirements come into force next year.
The pandemic has exacerbated a crisis, but it is not the root cause.
The UK Government insists negotiations will continue through this crisis and the timetable for ending the transition period remains intact.
While the world is ravaged by a disease which has no regard for borders, it would be wise for Ministers to reflect on the importance of international cooperation and friendship and end this Brexit folly.
John can be found tweeting at @JohnFinnieHI