FRIGSE members have welcomed the recently released report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) after lobbying from representatives of farmers and growers about the need for a replacement Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) which is due to end this year.
The report puts forward a clear case for a replacement scheme stating that any labour shortage in the horticulture sector could lead to higher food prices, a rise in imported fruit and vegetables and a loss of full time jobs. It recommends that government considers proposals for a replacement for SAWS, targeting workers from non-EU countries and claims that a replacement scheme would help the UK horticulture sector thrive.
The South East region in particular has the highest percentage of SAWS workers in the UK with over 4,000 workers in Kent alone. The SAWS scheme is essential for the land-based sector to thrive and expand and the MAC report puts across a strong argument about the requirement for a SAWS successor.
MAC suggests that in the short term (next 1-2 years) that the industry may be able to get by on the basis that the Romanians and Bulgarians who already undertake seasonal work may return, but it is not without its uncertainties and risks. MAC agrees that this uncertainty around the availability of labour will put growers off from expanding and investing in production. A longer term solution is needed.
MAC recommends that the Government considers proposals for a replacement scheme targeting non-EU workers with Ukraine as a potential candidate. This is in line with the submission which FRIGSE made to the MAC’s consultation exercise earlier in the year.
FRIGSE and other parts of the land-based sector must now step up their efforts to persuade Government that the MAC’s recommendations should be implemented.