NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board Chair, Ali Capper, looks ahead to Fruit Focus 2019 and the opportunities to engage with government on labour asks.
I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at Fruit Focus next week, where we’re hosting the first two fruit forums which will examine sector ambition and future immigration policy.
We’ve secured some free tickets exclusively for NFU members which you can secure by visiting this page – you’ll need to be quick though as the offer expires on Monday.
Our first session ‘Setting the Ambition for a Productive and Profitable Horticulture Industry’ will focus on the productivity of the sector and how future agricultural policy can support this growth. I’m delighted that we will have Robert Goodwill joining us on the panel so growers will be able to hear directly from the minister on the future of the sector post-Brexit. We’ll also be joined by AHDB Head of Horticulture Knowledge Exchange Dr Debbie Wilson, and Chief NFU Horticulture advisor, Lee Abbey.
I’ll be chairing the second session ‘Future Immigration Policy and What it Means for Horticulture’ which will delve into the ongoing issues surrounding securing seasonal labour. We’ll be joined by the CEO for Concordia, Stephanie Maurel, and Head of Seasonal Labour, Stephanie Sloan to discuss the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme. It is also great to have Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent and Chair of the APPG for Fruit and Vegetable Farming. David Long, NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board member, will also join to give the growers’ perspective.
These panels at Fruit Focus are a very good opportunity to engage with MPs and government on access to labour. We’ve also produced a new briefing for MPs on access to labour, which outlines our key asks of government for securing access to labour – you can read it here. In particular we are asking that the Seasonal Workers Pilot is expanded immediately to 10,000 and then increased to 30,000 for 2020, ahead of the transition to a fully functioning scheme for up to 70,000 in 2021. This scaled increase is essential to ensure that the system is adequately tested and fit for purpose. In 2020, there should be at least 10 operators, both labour providers and direct recruiters, who can recruit via the Pilot. The ornamental sector must also be included in this.
In meantime may I urge all of you to contact your MP with your concerns. You can use our MP briefing to outlines key asks, and also our ‘email your MP’ page to help. Otherwise I look forward to meeting many of you at Fruit Focus next week, and please don’t forget to make use of our free ticket offer!