Horticulture bodies respond to Migration Advisory Committee on seasonal workers

Industry bodies are submitting views to a consultation by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) of immigration and labour market professionals which is to report on the impacts of Brexit on the UK labour market.

Paton brothers
Paton brothers
MAC is also looking at how the UK's immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy and is due to report by September 2018.
Garden industry trade body HTA said it has until 27 October to submit to MAC, which industry policy adviser David Brown will be doing next week.
An EFRA committee heard evidence from Brown on the issue earlier in 2017, and re-elected EFRA commitee chairman Neil Parish MP says he will keep the issue on the agenda.
The Home Office and Defra were described as complacent by Parish for not acting to secure worker supply. SAWS was abolished in 2013. Before the Brexit vote in 2016, immigration became freer, but since then the HTA, EFRA and NFU have warned that growers are suffering because of a lack of available labour.
According to the report which followed the completion of the EFRA inquiry, there are around 75,000 temporary migrant workers employed in UK agriculture. The NFU says the sector will need to meet the demand for 95,000 seasonal workers by 2021.
Meanwhile, the NFU says average farm profitability could drop from £38,000 to £15,000 a year in the worst case scenario as a result of policy and performance challenges that come from Brexit.

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Ali Capper said: "The fall in the value of sterling, the feeling amongst EU nationals that they are no longer welcome here, and competition for labour within Europe and other sectors of the economy have all added momentum to a gradual fall in the number of EU workers prepared to work in farming in the UK – and particularly in horticulture.

"Labour providers responding to the NFU’s monthly survey have reported shortages of up to 17% this season, and the impacts are being felt on farm, as many of you will know. The NFU has been making the case to government for some time that seasonal labour isn’t a Brexit issue. Growers need reassurance from government that we will have access to sufficient numbers of workers next season, and beyond.

"The entire food industry is united in its stance on labour and has worked hard to ensure that the impact of a labour shortfall this year hasn’t hit the consumer – wages have increased, overtime has been worked and some crops have gone unharvested. I’m not sure we can guarantee the same for 2018.

"There remains a window of time between now and May 2018 for the government to take action to prevent a labour shortfall and the ensuing disruption it will wreak on the supply chain."

The NFU is urging members to write to their MPs and express any concerns they have over the supply of seasonal labour in 2018.

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