A UK Government announcement on an expanded Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) for the horticultural sector could be imminent, according to a key industry lobbyist.
NFU vice president, Tom Bradshaw, told a Fruit Focus webinar he believed that after months of lobbying for a “dramatically expanded” scheme, one would be forthcoming –possibly by the end of the month.
“We believe we will have an expanded scheme for next year, but we’re working with a government that doesn’t have to listen because it’s a very powerful government,” he said.
He said the unemployment fallout from the pandemic meant growers would be expected to utilise British labour to supplement labour from overseas. “We need to learn lessons from the Pick for Britain campaign,” he said.
“There were some successes, and some businesses early in the season had nearly a third of their workers from the UK workforce.
“We’re working with the horticulture board on what a campaign could look like next year, and also how to target the people who worked out last year.”
NFU horticulture chairman, Ali Capper, said the union had made government aware of the struggles fruit growers had with inexperienced UK workers, who, she said, were around half as productive as experienced returning labour, and lasted an average of two to three weeks in most businesses.
She said: “When you have a six or nine-month season, that’s just not good enough.”