Please Stay!

Please stay!

Post Brexit migrant farm worker scheme announced in Sept '18. "UK fruit and vegetable growers will be able to recruit non-EU migrants as seasonal workers after Brexit under a new pilot scheme." The visas for up to 2,500 workers a year will last for six months. The scheme, which would run during a transition period The government said the industry needed to remain competitive, and almost all OECD countries currently use seasonal workers to pick fruit and vegetables. It doesn't say where the non-EU migrants are expected to come from. The Chair of the Fruit Growers' Body said that '"Whilst a step in the right direction...We need more than 11,500 seasonal workers by 2021 to keep pace with a crop that is set to grow"
There was nothing in the 'Chequers plan' to offer any more hope to the farmers who rely on seasonal workers. The UK government has promised seasonal workers will be allowed to continue to come to the UK until the end of 2020 but, after that, no one knows what will happen. A farm relying on 1000 seasonal workers mainly from eastern Europe, have been among hundreds of farmers urging the UK government to introduce a seasonal workers’ scheme. Such an initiative would allow them to bypass a Brexit ban on immigration to bring in a certain number of workers, all on permits, to pick fruit on their farms.There used to be such a scheme (called SAWS) but it was scrapped in 2013 by Theresa May, then the home secretary. Perhaps "some of the present impasse comes from the prime minister not wanting to admit she was wrong". More about Tory dilemmas below..

British Curry industry 'dying' due to staff shortages.

"The fall in the value of sterling since Britain voted to leave the European Union has drastically increased the costs of running curry houses across the country, with some restaurants claiming business is down 75 per cent since 2016, dealing a major body blow to the £4bn industry. The fall in the value of sterling since Britain voted to leave the European Unionhas drastically increased the costs of running curry houses across the country, with some restaurants claiming business is down 75 per cent since 2016, dealing a major body blow to the £4bn industry. The Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA), which represents 12,000 British-Bangladeshi restaurants and takeaways across the country, expressed their concerns that the detrimental impact of Brexit, which the group backed, was a major worry. Increased costs of ingredients they can live with - but only of the staff are there. Current rules state that to bring a chef from south Asia, an employer must provide a salary of £30,000 to secure a visa, a figure that is far higher than the average curry house chef’s pay.
The UK Food Supply Chain Manifesto (for a successful Brexit) released 28 May, calls on the Government to maintain “free and frictionless” trade with the EU and ensure ongoing access to an adequate supply of permanent and seasonal labour". Over 100 food industry leaders, including NFU, Marks and Spencer, and Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and more niche groups such as the Potato Processors’ Association (PPA) and British Summer Fruits, have lent their voices to this manifesto, heaping pressure on the Government to pursue key objectives as it negotiates Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Full report. "The UK food supply chain acknowledges the role it can play in attracting more of our domestic workforce and in developing the necessary skills. However, with UK unemployment at historic lows and much of the supply chain operating in low-unemployment rural areas, alongside the devaluation of our currency, many of our businesses are experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff from within the UK. Government must ensure that in the short- to medium-term the industry has access to the overseas labour market to help meet its recruitment needs".

Craftwork

One of the members of the Potato Processors Association is Pipers Crisps, an award winning crisp maker. They epitomise the promotion of many UK food producers as they "produce great tasting, quality crisps using local potatoes. We hand select the best locally grown potatoes. We work with carefully selected flavour partners who care as much about their products as we do about ours. We are all passionate people driven by one thing and that is to deliver the best taste and quality possible - no gimmicks." They convey a good image of what many believe is 'Englishness' - including sponsoring National village cricket cup. However, here is the contradiction of many food producers like this. They depend on EU labour to deliver the taste. Hence their partner body PPA lobbying to maintain 'access to overseas labour' - which was at the heart of the drive for Brexit.
Others partners of that Manifesto include M&S with their Sustainable Scorecard which says they "want to deliver sustainable value for our shareholders by ‘Enhancing lives, Every day’ through the high quality, own brand food." British Summer Fruits say:" Britain has the perfect climate to grow and produce the best-flavoured soft fruits in the world. The wonderful flavour and unique quality of British soft fruits makes them eagerly awaited by consumers. Each year, as more and more consumers turn to homegrown fruits, demand has been rising." Here is the massive contradiction at the source of our food supply... Many of us want to 'Buy British', but to make that work, we depend on foreign labour. When we buy that cauliflower wrapped in union jack packaging, we think we are doing good - both to ourselves and the country's economy/brand. We don't see what is going on behind the label. Many who voted Brexit want to promote that sort of image. Yet - in order to grow these crops- we depend on foreign labour. That led to the referendum - and the way we grow on these plantation with monocultures also wrecks our best land (see Chap 6). Another example Tesco are proud to provide 'fresh berries handpicked for ripeness' Who does this handpicking? One of the biggest berry producers is cutting several hundred seasonal jobs because of uncertainty over Brexit and their reliance on Eastern European workers. They can carry on another year, but may then have to close altogether. The farm in Herefordshire is increasing production in Yunnan China, but do not see this as 'outsourcing' but responding to increased demand n China.

Fruit

Shortage of soft fruit pickers beginning to bite. Unusually hot weather is ripening fruit quicker, shortening the weeks to pick, and hot picking conditions all contributing to strawberries going to waste. Three major soft fruit growers in Angus and Perthshire saw 20 tonnes of produce go to waste in the first week in July. "We need to be able to employ workers from the Ukraine and Morocco and even Thailand like other EU countries do.” "
Angus Soft Fruits general manager, said "The other big issue is that the standard of workers from eastern Europe isn’t as good as it used to be....two years ago they’d all be relishing the busyness, working their guts out picking huge volumes of fruit and everyone would be happy. But there is a huge difference between the best workers who can pick 20 kgs an hour and the worst at only 8 kg an hour.”

Potatoes

Not enough workers to plant and harvest Royal Jersey potatoes About 1000 workers are needed on the steep hillsides, but not turning up form Poland anymore, so recruitment from Kenya and Romania is being established. Was this what Brexit was all about in terms of controlling our borders?
Association of Labour Providers (ALP) survey found only 30 per cent of growers had been able to supply all their retailers' needs in the last three months and 36 per cent did not expect to be able to supply sufficient workers for the Christmas peak. At least two British growers have already sought to cut ties with UK supermarkets (as they get fined for not meeting orders) in favour of companies elsewhere in Europe, who will provide the labour.Agricultural Technology and recruitment - now needs both IT and farm experience.

Jason Aldiss, managing director of Eville & Jones, which is based in Leeds and provides Official Veterinarians (OVs) for every abattoir in England and Wales, said he was finding it more and more difficult to recruit staff. He blames Brexit uncertainty for the loss of 20 vets a month. E&V employs about 550 vets and said 98% come from outside the UK. ""My company has already lost £2.5m because of paralysis in government, lack of direction and the lack of an understanding about the real implications of what is happening now."
Things getting worse "Brexit makes the figures concerning because of the number of EU staff who make up the agricultural workforce. A House of Commons briefing from June 2017 showed [pdf, p5-6] that EU workers accounted for around:20% of full time agricultural workers.98% of the seasonal workforce in horticulture.40% of staff on egg farms and around 50% of staff in egg packing centres.63% of red and white meat processing industry workers.The briefing also warned [pdf, p6] that one in five farms and businesses connected to the pig industry would struggle to survive without migrant labour. And as The Farmers Guardian reported on the same day DEFRA released its reports, 56% of dairy farmers employ EU workers.
Conservatives in a bindUK crops left to rot. One Scottish farmer said enough broccoli to feed 15,000 people for a year was wasted. NFU Scotland President said a SAWS like system for 2018 was crucial to provide 'work permits for up to 20,000 workers from outside the EU'. In Bittersweet Brexit, I predicted they would come from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, if previous attempts to replace EU farm labour were anything to go by..we shall see.Gove backed his Minister Caroline Nokes (April 2018) who 'infuriated members of EFRA committee' by evading questions of whether SAWS would be re-introduced this year. She said she was waiting for a report from Migration Advisory Committee - due in September. The Food Supply manifesto (above) urged the Government to publish a white paper on immigration, acknowledging specifically the food and drink industry, as “a matter of priority”. Secretary of State Michael Gove says:"Continuing access to temporary and permanent labour had to be at the centre of a special "transition" deal for the industry..In future, we will need to look further afield than just the EU and we will need to think more creatively". Why did he not mention this during the referendum? However "the Conservatives have put themselves in a bind. If they do not end free movement with a hard Brexit, they think voters will punish them for betraying them over immigration. So although industry is shouting about a crisis in labour supply, the government is dogmatically refusing to consider any new scheme until we are out of the EU. " Dig deep for fair pay on farms