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Labour issues continue to worry growers

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Industry groups have warned that recent suggestions by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to reduce the proposed salary threshold for migrant workers to £25,600 will do little to help farming businesses.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Mark Bridgeman said the government needed to recognise that agriculture required a balance of skilled and unskilled migrant workers. “Many rural industries are facing labour shortages in low-skilled and low-paid sectors, threatening to damage businesses and limit economic growth,” he said. “It is the government’s job to ensure rural businesses have access to the workers they need to operate.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) called on policy to reflect the ‘going rate’ for labour in a particular industry. FDF chief operating officer Tim Rycroft said, “The new immigration system must also be accessible for the many food and drink manufacturers that would be recruiting via an immigration system for the first time.”

The MAC report also criticised the Home Office’s points-based immigration proposals and called for a review of the Shortage Occupation List, however Jan-Willem Naerebout of recruitment company Agri-HR warned, “I don’t think [the report]has any relevance to seasonal workers. If an agricultural worker is on £10 per hour, and they do 48 hours per week for the whole year, even then they fall below the £25,600 threshold by a thousand. That lower threshold recognition is good for other sectors, but it doesn’t really touch people in agriculture.”

A survey conducted by the Association of Labour Providers (ALP) showed that 74 per cent of employers agreed there was a short supply of workers during the last three months of the 2019 season. 94 per cent of surveyed employers agreed the availability of labour was just as bad in 2019 than during the previous year.

Photo credit: AHDB – Migrant labour harvesting spring onions, Lincolnshire, August

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