What do SAWS and CAP have in store for growers?

Pumpkin harvesting rig_275_179Acting NFU horticulture & potatoes board chairman, Guy Poskitt, talks about the future of the SAWS scheme and impacts of CAP reform on horticulture

Without doubt, the biggest policy issue affecting the horticulture sector currently is the question over the future of the SAWS scheme.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published a report last month into the potential impact of SAWS ending – the report concluded that any labour shortage in 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 to SAWS, targeting workers from non-EU countries and claims that a replacement scheme would help the UK horticulture sector thrive. The Home Office is currently considering the MAC’s recommendations before reaching a decision.

CAP reform still continues to make its confused progress but chance of an early decision does not look on the agenda. An area for concern for horticulture has to be the rather fundamental question of defining ‘who is the farmer?’ Many of us rent land on a short term basis, and if the landlord is the claimant it is important that there is some input from the landlord as to the management of the crop. This is a classic example of the RPA not understanding our sector. What landlord is going to want to transfer entitlements for one year and run the risk of the RPA delaying payments?

To me there appears to be one thing for certain with CAP reform - that we will all receive less money with a higher level of interference. How I long for the day when we can be competitive with Europe with no subsidy and no cross compliance measures

Finally I hope the sunny weather in the last few weeks has helped create sales for some of our horticultural grower members, especially in the ornamentals sector. However, the long term weather prospects look a bit challenging.