Saturday, July 09, 2016

Is there a migrant labour crisis?

I had to do a pre-record for ITV Yorkshire about the potential migrant labour crisis in agriculture, more specifically in field vegetables and horticulture (there are also many Fillipinos working in the dairy industry).

I think there is a potential crisis, indeed some signs of strain are already emerging, but there is also a potential partial solution.

The pound is 13 per cent weaker against the Polish zloty since January and salaries are rising there. Polish shipping agents are reporting increased business.

The solution would be to restore a version of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), but to extend it outside the EU. As far as I am aware, this could be limited to specific countries.

A SAWS type scheme does impose additional administrative costs compared with the free movement of labour. There is also some risk of those on temporary work permits disappearing into the illegal labour market.

However, the alternative scenario is a reduction in the quantity of fruit and field vegetables grown in the UK, reducing even further the percentage of temperate foodstuffs we can supply ourselves. Prices would be pushed up, as imported fruit and vegetables are generally moe expensive, especially if sterling is weak.

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