Labour providers are working to convince the Government to introduce a successor to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), which closes at the end of next year, while putting in place alternative measures.
HOPS Labour Solutions operations manager Laura Savage said at the National Fruit Show: "The industry relies on SAWS - other sources of labour never live up to it. But we have to show the Government that we are doing our bit to find alternatives - they want to see evidence for or against."
HOPS and Concordia, along with the NFU, sit on the working party to advise the Government on a successor scheme. Concordia employer services manager Terry Crosswell asked: "Once workers from Bulgaria and Romania have free movement of labour, how many will still come?
"That's unpredictable. But farmers' fears are legitimate. The working party reports in March next year, with the Government issuing a response during next season. They have left it a bit late."
Meanwhile, HOPS is working on a "top-secret programme" to bring on new home-grown labour sources, which it will launch shortly.
Agency work - Changes impact employment
The Agency Workers Directive, which gives agency workers comparable workplace rights to full-time staff, has had a dramatic impact on employment patterns since coming into force a year ago.
According to Neil Emery, an associate at legal firm Whitehead Monckton, 57 per cent of firms have cut back their use of agency staff over the past year, while eight per cent have stopped using them altogether.