Pay pundits have confirmed the national minimum wage has had a significant impact on horticulture businesses.
The Low Pay Commission (LPC) said it had a “significant impact” on the “labour-intensive, low-skilled and low-paid” parts of the growing industry, “primarily horticulture”.
The LPC visited a plant supplier and was told rises in agricultural minimum rates had pushed up labour costs from 25 per cent of turnover five years ago to 36 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, a north-western supplier of plants to major retailers said clients were demanding price freezes or reductions.
The national minimum wage report included NFU claims that wage increases were hard to manage as farmers faced “continuing downward pressure” on prices.
HTA adviser David Brown said: “Rising labour costs and price freezes cause problems. We are pleased the commission recognises the impact of the national minimum wage on horticulture.
“The key to members is don’t stop learning, which is why we run business-improvement projects. Look for further efficiencies and take every opportunity to increase prices, which is easier said than done in such a tight market.”
But Transport & General Workers Union national secretary for food and agriculture Chris Kaufman said: “It’s laughable to suggest paying the miserly minimum wage is the end of civilisation. If people can’t afford it, they shouldn’t be in business.”
The Government set up the LPC in 1998 to advise it on the minimum wage. It recently accepted the commission’s recommended adult minimum wage rise to £5.52.
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