Securing Labour and Tackling the Post-CAP Landscape at Fruit Focus

Navigating the challenges posed by Brexit is something all producers are attempting to do, but it is easier said than done.

Whether farmers are producing soft fruits, growing apples, or cultivating vineyards, there are numerous questions facing each sector as a result of Brexit. “Tackling these subjects can be quite a challenge, as most people are unsure where to start,” says Jon Day, Fruit Focus event director. “However, the forums at Fruit Focus, sponsored by the NFU, will give visitors both a concrete starting point and a valuable insight into where to go next.”

Fruit Focus

One of the big challenges facing the horticultural industry is securing sufficient labour, something the forums will be addressing. “Brexit is not going to change the fact that fruit growers need an expansive labour force, but it will pose the issue of where this will be sourced from,” adds Mr Day.

Access to seasonal workers is a problem that existed before the EU referendum, but the result has fast-tracked the problem, says Amy Gray, NFU horticultural adviser. Unresolved questions around free movement of labour, fluctuating exchange rates and the availability of workers in the future are all serious issues facing producers. “Without a seasonal workforce to carry out time-sensitive jobs, such as harvest work or pruning, there is little doubt that the industry will grind to a halt.”

Though research is ongoing to find a mechanised alternative, like soft robotics to perform delicate tasks, this is not yet developed enough. “Suitably quick, effective and efficient designs are still a number of years off for mainstream use,” adds Miss Gray.

Chaired by Hayley Cambell-Gibbons, NFU chief horticultural adviser, the first Fruit Forum on securing sufficient labour will start at 10am, with speakers including Amy Gray and Concordia chief executive Stephanie Maurel.

Along related lines, the second forum will take a look at horticulture in a post-CAP landscape. “Brexit is arguably the biggest political transformation that growers are likely to experience, and the NFU will have a big part to play in getting the best deal for its members,” says Miss Gray.

Farming after CAP is unknown territory, with concerns being voiced over subsidies, trade and sustainability, says Mr Day. “There is a large market outside the EU, with plenty of opportunities for producers, but trade deals could take years to iron out. Therefore, it is imperative that growers know what is in store and how to plan ahead.”

The second forum will begin at 11am and will be chaired by Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, with contributions from Tom Keen, the NFU’s EU exit and international trade adviser and Chris Hartfield, NFU senior plant health adviser.

“We will be discussing what political environment UK growers need to become more productive and profitable,” adds Miss Gray. “And whether Brexit is still an opportunity to create the conditions for a productive, resilient and sustainable industry that we are hoping for.”

The variety of scenarios for future UK trading arrangements, regulation and immigration is huge, but all will affect how individual businesses operate on the ground, says Tom Keen. “Arguably horticultural businesses will be less directly impacted by changes to direct payments, but difficulties in filling labour requirements or the opening up or closing off of international markets will have a bearing on how enterprises invest in the coming years. By exploring some of the potential outcomes and effects, practical discussions about future business structures and operations can be better informed.”

Fruit Focus

Other Event Links
link Royal Welsh Agricultural Society AGM
link Agricultural Research and Sheep Farming Hand in Hand
link Great Day at Northumberland County Show 2017
link Five Essential Reasons not to miss Grassland & Muck 2017
link Show Dates