Industry leaders have called for Government to provide ‘critical’ data to support the need for 80,000 seasonal workers, in a bid to prevent labour shortfalls.
Despite a total of 80,000 being touted as an accurate figure for the number of seasonal workers needed to harvest British crops, NFU vice-president Tom Bradshaw highlighted the accuracy of the estimation was often challenged by Government departments.
The call comes after farm groups hit out at the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) decision not to include agricultural roles within the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), following concerns the exclusion could lead to severe labour shortages.
Speaking at an Efra Committee hearing on the impact a new points based immigration could have on labour and its role in the food supply chain (July 7), Mr Bradshaw therefore reinforced Defra needed to ensure ‘greater transparency’ in collecting evidence to support this figure.
He said: “There is a widely accepted view that the number, if you go cross-sector, is just under 80,000 and we have pretty good evidence to justify it, but the independence and accuracy of that number always gets challenged.
“It is critical that Defra ensures that there is more transparency in how this data is collected, so that we can really make the case to the Home Office (HO) when we are looking, for example, to increase the number of seasonal visas under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).”
David Camp, chief executive for the Association of Labour Providers (ALP) echoed this and claimed accurate statistical data was crucial as it helped to inform policy decision-making.
He added: “[This includes] the number of seasonal workers we might need under a seasonal workers tier 5 visa, and it also informs whether there are indeed shortages in other sectors – for example, fish processing, meat processing and poultry catching.
“Ensuring this helps to guarantee a united and strong argument can be put forward to the MAC and to the HO regarding labour and skills needs within the food supply chain.”