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Flower-growers’ hopes bloom over labour boost

STRUGGLE: Daffodil growers have faced labour shortages and welcomed indications they will have access to the Seasonal Workers Scheme.

The Grampian Growers co-operative has welcomed early indications that the Home Office will allow daffodil producers access to labour in next year’s Seasonal Workers Scheme (SWS).

The Montrose-based group’s managing director Mark Clark said he hoped members would be able to recruit from the seasonal workforce in the spring, once pickers have completed the seasons in Cornwall and Lincolnshire.

“We’ve pushed really hard for this, and it’s badly needed,” he said.

“Our producers need around 300 pickers in total, and last year the most they had on the best day was 140, so even if we get 100 of the seasonal workforce it would be a major boost.

Mark Clark of Grampian Growers.

“We believe there will be strong demand for Scottish flowers next year, partly because of the severe labour shortage and also because Easter is late which suits our season.”

While the ornamentals sector is relieved to be included in the scheme, the Home Office is not expected to extend the number of permits next year.

The indications came when Immigration Minister Kevin Foster told a House of Commons committee this week that the scheme would remain at 30,000 workers. He said there would be a move to a three-year system.

The inclusion of ornamentals in the scheme means growers in the soft fruit and vegetable industries are likely to face even greater competition for labour in future.

NFUS horticulture group chairman, Ian Brown.

NFU Scotland’s horticulture committee chair Ian Brown, from Easter Grangemuir in Fife, said: “We expect confirmation next week, but as it stands no extension to the 30,000 workers would be a terrible blow to the soft fruit and veg sector. We already have a diminishing supply of EU-settled status workers and fewer people coming back.

“This will make labour shortages even worse next season.”

NFUS president, Martin Kennedy added: “Ministerial commitment that the seasonal workers scheme will be extended to the ornamental sector is welcome, but we need categorical commitment to extending this scheme.

“The late and inadequate Seasonal Workers Pilot introduced by the UK Government in 2021 left many growers in Scotland re-thinking the risks around investing in high-value fruit and veg plants.

Farmers are calling for an increase in the number of permits for  seasonal workers.

“Our horticultural and ornamental sector punches way above its weight in Scottish agriculture, accounting for only one per cent of our land area but 16% of our agricultural output.

“Access to seasonal labour in the field and in processing is key and we will be looking for a Seasonal Worker Scheme in 2022 that starts on time and goes beyond the 30,000 visas offered in this year’s pilot.”

 

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