NFU Horticulture Board Chair, Ali Capper, discusses the recent no-deal notice on labour, the new ‘VegPower’ Campaign, and the AHDB review.
While the government’s no-deal notice on labour movements was long overdue, its release last week came quite out of the blue. Puzzlingly, there was very little media coverage either, especially as labour movements and immigration have remained such a hot topic throughout the whole Brexit debate.
The notice leaves a number of unanswered questions (of which we are already seeking clarity), but broadly speaking the government has produced a “no deal” policy which will enable EU workers to continue to come and work in the UK until at least the end of 2020. On the face of it, this should be good news – it means the doors will not shut on 30th March and businesses will still be able to recruit from the EU for the next two seasons. But the hoops that workers will have to jump through (pay a fee and apply online within three months of arriving in the UK) will almost certainly put some EU workers off.
Evidence collated by the NFU and provided by Labour Providers has shown shortages of around 10,000 seasonal workers in both 2017 and 2018. We can’t afford any more reasons to put off workers coming to work on our farms. It needs to be made loud and clear – the UK is open for business and, deal or no-deal, EU workers are welcome on our farms.
To change subject, I was delighted to see last week the new TV advertisement campaign to encourage children to eat more fruit and veg. The NFU is part of the committee behind Veg Power, and the team have done brilliantly well to secure support from marketing agencies, retailers, ITV, celebrities and many more, to produce an engaging advert that appeals to its target audience. The slogan ‘Eat Them to Defeat Them’ is fun, creative and has a clear message. To have the biggest impact, it needs to be replicated in store; something retailers have pledged to do. You never know, we may find children using ‘pester power’ on something other than sugary snacks!
Finally, many of you may be wondering what happened with Defra’s review of AHDB which took place in late 2018. There has still been no response from Defra since the review closed in November. Our understanding is that the response is being delayed, understandably, because of the focus on Brexit and no-deal planning, so it may well be weeks or even months before we hear their conclusions. NFU Chief Horticulture & Potatoes Adviser, Lee Abbey, talked about the review and the range of opinions amongst our members. While the formal review has closed, the delay may give growers an opportunity to continue to feed in their views and they should raise them directly with Defra.