Growers asked to make voices heard on seasonal agricultural workers scheme

Growers have until 10 April to respond to a request for feedback over whether industry lobbyists should ask for a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWs) for 2017.

Home Office immigration minister Robert Goodwill
Home Office immigration minister Robert Goodwill

After an EFRA Parliamentary committee inquiry into worker shortages in the growing industry post-Brexit, HTA policy adviser David Brown said he was "disappointed" by Home Office immigration minister Robert Goodwill dismissing the idea of a SAWs scheme for this season.

Goodwill said it would take 5-6 months to set up a scheme to fill gaps left by workers leaving the UK because of Brexit.

EFRA committee chairman Neil Parish suggested the Government was being "complacent" about introducing an alternative SAWS scheme after the committee heard from those such as the HTA and Cobrey Farms that labour was getting more difficult to find. He cited the NFU’s figures of 80,000 workers required for 2018 and 95,000 by 2021.

Goodwill said there was "not sufficient evidence" that a SAWS scheme was needed for 2017 and said there was still two years of freedom of movement before final Brexit.

Brown said Goodwill and farming minister George Eustice did the "classic thing of leaving the door open".

Goodwill said there would be a consultation with industry about labour demands and that he did not want any "knife edges" in labour supply.

The NFU has called for a new SAWS scheme ahead of final Brexit. But Goodwill said: "It would be a mistake to speculate [about] a specific immigration structure ahead of negotiations."

Brown has been given the opportunity to give in written evidence after consulting HTA members.

He added: "I need to hear what the members say and then decide whether to push for one [SAWs scheme] for next year, or wait and see. I expect to see a report somewhere around the last week of April."

He said he was asking whether growers were getting more anxious about worker supply for 2017.


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