We began this year with some good news delivered at NFU Conference by Farming Minister Mark Spencer, with the removal of the Seasonal Worker Scheme wage, and more recently with the news that seasonal workers will be able to return to the UK earlier than the previous year.
Albeit at the same time, a second seasonal worker scheme operator has been suspended, pending a review of the KPIs that they are measured against, putting recruitment under pressure.
Reflecting on the NFU Horticulture Strategy
At the start of March, against the backdrop of empty shelves reported in the media, we launched the NFU Horticulture Strategy, which highlights the top ten policies that we need to improve in order to deliver long term growth of the sector. You can read this here: Delivering growth for the UK horticulture sector.
News of Farming Minister Mark Spencer's emergency meeting with retailers a couple of weeks ago did little more than offer him a PR opportunity. Tesco, has clearly not taken his concerns seriously, when it subsequently wrote to suppliers to communicate their intention to charge extra fees for products sold online.
NFU Members can read: NFU urgently seeks GCA position in response to new Tesco online fee
Defra promises failing to materialise thus far
In the last few days, restaurateur Henry Dimbleby has quit his role with Defra out of frustration that his recommendations in the National Food Strategy are being ignored. There was hope for the horticulture sector, with the government promising a focus on growth. This promise has, so far, failed to materialise. That is why the NFU’s strategy is so important.
Presently, both Minette and I have been involved into the House of Lords' inquiry into the horticulture sector, providing both written and verbal evidence to the inquiry. We are also working with a range of associations to submit complementary plans, both to the inquiry and directly to Defra.
Continuing our current momentum
One thing we can say for sure right now, is that we have a lot of momentum behind us. Our sector has been under a spotlight for the last few months and doesn’t appear to be fading away any time soon.
Right now, the short term stability and long term growth of our sector are the top priorities for the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board. We will do everything we can to deliver it.