Growers urged to look to edibles sector for ideas on finding labour

Different options need to be considered to solve labour woes in the horticulture industry.

Boningale Nurseries managing director Tim Edwards says growers in the ornamentals sector must learn from the fruit and vegetable sector, where growers are facing similar problems over labour and pressure from supermarkets. Speaking after an NFU horticulture board meeting, he said: “The message must get across that there could be problems but help is available. In the past the ornamentals sector has attracted staff and replaced them when they left. But now there is a shortage and we must look elsewhere. As more countries join the EU, there will be more foreign workers available for seasonal jobs.” NFU board vice-chair Sarah Pettitt said one problem might be whether growers of ornamentals paid an agency or a legal gangmaster to recruit the workers or handled the recruiting themselves. Hampshire fruit grower John Boyd said: “We have been using foreign workers for a long time and we’ve been very happy with them. “They have come back year after year and we have progressed some of them through the grades. However, there comes a time when they want to go home and you have to face that as well. You may also be responsible for many things involving their welfare. “Added to this, confusion can arise over the current legislation.” Boyd said that pressure from buyers at supermarkets could involve flow plans and product specifications. Edwards is to set up a group of growers whom he can email for information and their thoughts on the issue. He said: “The group will allow me to get important feedback from the grower side and we will be able to gauge the feelings and take them into consideration. “We need to work closely with the HTA so that we can gain all the feedback we can and in turn let the HTA know what the NFU is doing and thinking.”

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