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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Firm in a jam over fruit pickers
Strawberries are harvested for jam at Tiptree
A jam company is facing a production crisis over foreign workers.

Every year Wilkin and Sons employs about 150 students from Eastern Europe at its jam factory in Tiptree, Essex.

But farm manager Chris Newenham said: "The problem is that the Bulgarian and Romanian embassies have suspended issuing visas.

"We're fairly happy with the crop, but we're concerned about getting enough workers to pick the fruit."

All of the pickers recruited to work at Tiptree study English, agriculture or horticulture in their home country and they are normally granted visas to work only at the camp.

Mr Newenham said: "It's a long-established practice.

"We are always keen to get hold of local labour, but over the years the number of local people has diminished and the number of foreign workers has increased."

Now, he added, the foreign workers make up two-thirds of the pickers.

Immigration officials in the UK say there is nothing they can do.

The Home Office told BBC Look East that Romania and Bulgaria suspended issuing visas from the end of March, but that there was no indication when the suspension would be lifted.

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27 Nov 02  |  Politics


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