The continuing issue of finding enough workers for the British agricultural and horticultural industries was a topic of major concern at the NFU Annual Conference. Speaking in the Horticultural session, Anthea McIntyre MEP for the West Midlands said,
"Despite considerable efforts on countless occasions, producers and packers simply cannot find enough British workers prepared to work in the fields or pack-houses.
“The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) is a high quality, well managed scheme. Workers are well looked after and pay at least meets the National Minimum Wage. With six month’s work, there is a regular turnover and an impeccable record of people returning to their home country at the end of their contract.
“Without a reliable and willing local workforce, it is no wonder that SAWS is of such importance to our industries.
“The current scheme is due to end shortly and a replacement scheme is essential if British producers are to be able to meet their contracts to supply supermarkets and others going forward. Without reliable supply the buyers will look elsewhere to meet the needs of their customers – and that inevitably means more imports.
“I am therefore calling on the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper MP, for a follow-on SAWS scheme so that growers and packers can top up their European workforce during the peaks of the season for the particular crops being grown and the growing method being used.
"Experience with SAWS has shown that the UK Border Agency administers the scheme effectively and efficiently and will, I am sure, be well able to deal with a follow-on scheme.”