NFU set to lobby for 'sustainable' labour

Positive effect of immigration on UK economy is most evident in agriculture, says NFU president

Raymond: pre-election lobbying
Raymond: pre-election lobbying

With fewer than 100 days to go to the general election, the NFU will be lobbying for "sustainable, profitable, resilient farming", its president Meurig Raymond told last week's Brassica & Leafy Salad Conference (28 January).

"That includes a sustainable, reliable workforce," he added. "Immigration will be central to the election campaign but its positive effect on the UK economy is most evident of all in agriculture and horticulture, allowing us to deliver goods at prices consumers can afford."

The impact of the closure of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) "is already being felt, with greater staff turnover leading to higher administration costs and a potential shortage of workers leaving us at a disadvantage compared with imports", he said.

Labour supplier Concordia's employer services manager Terry Crosswell said: "There was an increase in labour mobility last year compared with 2013 (the last year of SAWS). But right now Southern Europe is still economically troubled while in the UK the pound has strengthened over the past six months, making this country more attractive for migrant workers."

He added: "There's a whole spectrum of opinion on immigration among the parties, but the election won't alter much in the short term as whatever government gets in won't have anything in place before autumn."

However, recruiting from the resident UK population "is still an uphill struggle", said Crosswell.

Crop protection

"The continuing loss of crop-protection products is extremely worrying and over-regulation is affecting our ability to grow crops. Since 2001, we have lost more than half of the 850 actives we had. We want authorities to accept data on such products from other EU member states so we're not put at a disadvantage."

Meurig Raymond, president, NFU

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