Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Call for clarity on future for seasonal farm workers

May 31, 2017 by  
Filed under News & Business

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Farm leaders have urged the next government to ensure that overseas agricultural workers remain welcome in the UK after the country leaves the European Union.

With vegetable growers and the wider horticultural sector heavily reliant on manual labour, seasonal workers from overseas are seen as vital – especially given the challenges faced by many farms when it comes to recruiting local staff.

“The UK food supply chain will be substantially less competitive if restrictions are placed on labour after Brexit,” said NFU president Meurig Raymond. “For successful farm businesses, continued access to non-UK seasonal and non-seasonal workers on-farm is critical.

“As well as an urgent need for the government to issue clarity on the rules around EU migrants following the end of free movement, the NFU urges the government to publish the timetable for the Immigration Bill as soon as possible.”

Shortfall

As the busiest time of year rapidly approaches, growers are already reporting a shortfall in overseas workers. Some workers are staying away because weaker sterling since last year’s Brexit vote means they will earn less. Others simply feel less welcome.

Should it form the next government, the Labour party has pledged to allow EU workers employed across farming, fishing and food manufacturing to remain in the UK. Its manifesto also pledges to reinstate the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.

Farm leaders are seeking similar assurances from other parties. The Conservative party says it  has “huge ambitions” for agriculture – including plans to grow more, sell more and export more great British food. But its manifesto says nothing about seasonal workers.

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers  Association, said navigating the turbulence created by Brexit should bring opportunities,  as well as challenges. But access to labour was an issue which needed to be addressed.

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