Farmers could struggle to hire workers after Brexit

The Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), Professor Alan Manning, has warned that agriculture is one of the sectors that is likely to “struggle most” with attracting workers after Brexit. This comes as reports have claimed that the new immigration rules will hit lower skilled workers who want to come and work in the UK.

The MAC was commissioned last year to investigate the impact of European Economic Area (EEA) migration on the UK’s economy and society, and its interim report concludes that some sectors are currently experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retaining EEA migrants.

Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee recently, Professor Manning said that many farms and horticultural businesses continue to report difficulties recruiting staff.

This would be made easier if there was a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) but, so far, the Government has refused to introduce one. Under SAWs, which was closed in 2013, growers could recruit migrant seasonal labour for up to six months.

Having difficulties with recruiting workers is a worry for farmers, as according to figures from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), less than one per cent of the 80,000 seasonal workers needed in the UK every year are UK-born.

Food producers are very concerned about the lack of SAWS, with one grower, who was also giving evidence to the Committee, saying that if the Government fails to introduce a new scheme within the next year, the 2019 crop is at stake. He added that growers cannot wait for the final report in September.