Anti-immigration think tank Migration Watch UK has advised the government to reject calls for a visa scheme for seasonal agricultural workers post Brexit.
In a report the group said farmers and growers should ‘[raise]wages and [improve]working conditions for seasonal employees’ to encourage the uptake of such jobs by local British workers. It also said that new technology would help growers deal with potential labour availability issues.
The report comes as increasing numbers of UK growers express concerns about labour availability post-Brexit, with some already moving production overseas. Ali Capper, chair of the NFU’s horticulture board said that as seasonal workers went home at the end of their employment she was “surprised” that Migration Watch had expressed concerns.
“Seasonal work is less attractive to the local communities living permanently in most first world economies,” she said. “Whether it is the USA, Canada, Germany, France or Australia, local people do not aspire to move from farm to farm to follow the season’s harvest. Without seasonal workers, fruit and veg will be left to go rotten in the fields.”
The CLA added: “It is unsurprising to see lobby groups seeking to impose the most restrictive rules possible on migration into the UK. We reject their simplistic assessment that restricting access to labour for farmers will lead to increased wages and productivity. Hourly rates for seasonal agricultural work are above the national living wage.”