Growing enterprises are already disinvesting in the UK in favour of other areas inside and outside Europe as a result of the Government’s failure to tackle the labour crisis.
NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper said the high risk, high reward sector would undoubtedly ‘shrink’ as the would be unable to make the numbers stack up.
“If we cannot pick it why are we going to grow it? We are not a charity,” Ms Capper told NFU Council, adding four out of 10 horticulture growers who attended a recent Defra stakeholder engagement meeting said they would disinvest in the UK market due to Government inaction on staff shortages.
“We have a Government which is stuck in its EU/UK negotiation. It is unable to do anything on immigration until that is solved. It probably means there will be no deal until 2020/21 which is the transition period. That is three seasons at risk.”
Ms Capper told council members growers were worried about being deemed ‘ineffective’ by the retailers they supplied and called on Defra Secretary Michael Gove to make good on his pledge at NFU Conference back in February to make an announcement on a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme ‘shortly’.
NFU president Minette Batters, who met recently with Mr Gove, said she felt he had ‘grasped’ the labour issue but was ‘as frustrated as we are’ over a lack of clarity coming from the Home Office on immigration.
PROFITABLE RED MEAT SECTOR CHALLENGE
Maintaining profitability in the red meat sector will be one of the main challenges as others seek to benefit from the efficiency gains made at farm level.
NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay said the sector was confident in increasing productivity and becoming more efficient, but needed confidence to invest.
He said he wanted to see the Government taking a ‘defensive’ position with the large food producing countries, such as time limited, seasonal or volume based tariff rate quotas for the most sensitive sectors – beef and lamb.
HOT TOPICS @ NFU COUNCIL
East Anglia farmer Will Dickinson called for police and Government action on rural crime and fly-tipping.
“Police are disengaging with fly-tippping because they see it as a council problem. We are drowning under a sea of other people’s rubbish," he said.
Ahead of a vote in the European Commission today (April 27) on proposals to widen a ban on neonicotinoids, NFU deputy president Guy Smith said he was concerned Michael Gove was ‘developing a negative outlook’ essential pesticides.
“I think we need to remind him how professional we,” said Mr Smith, adding how growers always took professional advice on pesticides, were fully trained and sought to use alternatives wherever possible.
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