Seasonal labour scheme "essential" for next year, Commons hears

Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee chairman Neil Parish MP has called for a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS) to relieve labour shortages in fresh produce.

Neil Parish MP - image: Badgerham (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Neil Parish MP - image: Badgerham (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Speaking at a Commons debate on the subject yesterday (6 July), Parish said: "A pilot scheme next year, or an even wider scheme, is essential. The challenge will become a crisis if the Government do not swiftly take measures. The challenge will only become more acute after Brexit, when the free movement of workers ends."

Such a scheme would allow the UK to import skills and labour for specific sectors of the economy, could be open to both EU and non-EU workers, and could require applicants to have a confirmed job before entering the UK, he said.

Parish oversaw EFRA Committee's publication of a report in April that criticised government inaction to address the problem.

Yesterday he added: "It is time that the large retailers did something. If they do not buy British fruit and veg, they will have to buy it from the continent and pay more for it because of the value of our currency. It is high time that they stepped up to the plate and ensured we are getting a good price for an excellent crop that has nowhere near as many food miles."

Supporting the motion, North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb added: "One of the major producers in my constituency is 77 staff short at the moment. That means leaving fruit unpicked.

"There is a real risk that this major success story could be undermined unless we get a good new seasonal agricultural workers scheme deal in place for the post-Brexit situation."

Farming minister George Eustice MP responded that DEFRA's SAWS transition working group had concluded that "this was a challenging situation but not a crisis" though it would continue to monitor data from the current season.

He added that a renewed SAWS scheme "needs secondary legislation, and it would be a matter for the Home Office", and that the EFRA Committee "heard what the Home Office Minister had to say on that" during its enquiry.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Is a post-Brexit seasonal worker scheme now impossible?

Is a post-Brexit seasonal worker scheme now impossible?

The UK fresh-produce sector has reacted with dismay at the latest developments in the ongoing debate, largely conducted out of public view, on whether UK horticulture will still have access to seasonal migrant workers when the UK leaves the EU in 18 months' time.

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

UK production horticulture can become more profitable under one possible Brexit scenario, while other more drastic scenarios will lead to only minor losses in profitability, a new report argues.

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

An effective strategy to retain staff is the best way for any business to avoid a potential recruitment crisis, Neville Stein advises.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon