All Posts By

Sarah Coxell

British Growers News Update: Covid-19

By Industry News, Uncategorized

These are unprecedented times. There are some parallels with the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001 but multiplied up by a factor of 100. We all recognise that in short space of time the world has become a very different place. And we now face the challenge of learning to adapt in a new and alien environment.

The last few days has raised a multitude of questions, most of which have not been asked before and have no quick and obvious answers. Our aim here are British Growers is to use our extensive network of contacts to raise issues and find solutions. Some solutions may be immediate, and others may take time.  What’s clear from working through the last few days is the there is terrific intent to help and support, but the delivery of specific outcomes may take a little longer.

Recognition of the Importance of Food 

Ironically 4 weeks ago we wondered if the UK was serious about maintaining a food industry. The immigration rules were set to decimate access to the traditional sources of seasonal labour and free trade agreements and the removal of tariff protection were posing a threat to both standards and prices.  Fast forward 4 weeks and how different things look.

Key Workers

This is the definition of key workers:

Food and other necessary goods This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

We have been asked by several individuals how far this definition extends up and down the supply chain. Each case needs to be considered on its merits. The movement of people is key in bringing the virus under control and increasingly the focus is fewer people moving rather than more.

Letters confirming key worker status

We have been approached by several organisations asking for help with letters of confirmation for key workers. We now have a template letter, kindly provided by the Food and Drink Federation, which we can supply together with a British Grower logo and the relevant crop association logo.

Covid-19 – Guidance for Food Business 

Public Health England released its advice for food businesses on 25 March. Here is the link to their site. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses The document contains useful advice on managing social distancing in the workplace, although doesn’t deal with some of the more specific situations found on farm.

Access to Labour 

There is no doubt that the issue of labour is being taken extremely seriously within Government. Everyone now understands the connection between labour and the continuity of food supplies. There are no easy solutions here.

 But no effort is being spared in exploring options and looking for solutions to ease the problems as we move further into the fresh produce season. Expect to see further announcements on labour in the near future.

ProduceView

Our weekly update on retail prices has had to be adapted to operate in the present circumstances.  We have ceased our weekly visits to stores and for the foreseeable future we will be using data gathered from individual retailer sites. Not every retailer has an online operation but looking at the list that do, the data will cover a significant percentage of the grocery sector.   If anyone did their own in-store price checking and wants to keep in touch with weekly in store pricing, please get in touch and we can set you up on the system.

Fruit and Veg Alliance 

Through our position on the Fruit and Veg Alliance we are pulling together a list of box schemes and other local/ national outlets supplying consumers to their door throughout the UK and using locally grown fresh produce.  Being realistic, these outlets are not going to make up for the loss of major food service contracts but may offer a route to market for smaller quantities of produce. As one of our major customers for fresh produce says – every little bit helps.  Details are available on the British Growers website.

Morrisons

We have been working with Morrisons and our Asparagus Growers offering them an opportunity for locally grown British Asparagus to be available in Morrisons stores, supplying on a direct to store delivery basis.  These local lines replace their ‘national’ British Asparagus in those stores for the growing season.  Last year proved successful and this year more growers are signing up for their locally grown Asparagus to be sold in stores around the country.  This is the perfect opportunity to showcase not only what an amazing product Asparagus is, but also to highlight the locally grown credentials.  British Growers is working with Morrisons to expand this scheme to other crop sectors.

Turfgrass 

Business operating in the turf industry currently sit outside the current guidelines on key workers because they don’t fit the definition of producing food. But as with ornamental and amenity growers, they are a key part of the agricultural industry. There was some confusion after the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23 March about turf farms being forced to close. Until any further changes are announced, the current guidance has reassured members that they can continue to trade providing that social distancing guidance is being adhered to.

We have also been provided with the following guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS): “For security and essential maintenance reasons greens staff can still attend work.”

POs (Producer Organisations)

There are concerns from POs about receipt of payments (both the balance of payments for the 2019 scheme year and interim payments for 2020) given that no physical inspections can be carried out. We have been in touch with Defra and the advice is to continue to submit claims as normal and they will do their best to operate the system in the light of the current constraints. We are working with Defra to see what other measures can be taken to help POs. This includes actions that the UK can take unilaterally, as well as amendments/easements at an EU level (legislation, etc). There will probably be more to report as the days progress, and we all have a better understanding of how best to operate in these changed circumstances.

 

Stay safe in these difficult times.

British Growers Team

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Labour & Immigration 2020

By Industry News, Uncategorized

Labour and Immigration

Summary

On 19 February 2020, the Government announced that from 1 January 2021, the free movement of labour will end and be replaced with the UK’s new points-based immigration system. The new system is designed to provide access to the UK for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes. All migrants looking to enter the UK to work or study will need to apply for permission in advance, irrespective of whether they are within the EU or outside the EU.

The mandate

In making the announcement, the Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

Today is a historic moment for the whole country.

We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down.

We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.

Future requirements

Under the new points threshold system, workers wanting to enter the UK will need to meet several key criteria, including specific skills and the ability to speak English. All applicants will need to have a job offer and a minimum salary of £25,600 (the figure recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee in its recent report.)

Workers looking to live and work in the UK will need to be qualified up to A level or equivalent. This is a step down from an earlier requirement for applicants to hold a degree.

The seasonal workers pilot scheme

Also contained in the announcement is an update to the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme. This will also be expanded in time for the 2020 harvest from 2,500 to 10,000 places, to meet the specific temporary requirements of the agricultural sector.

Where does this leave the fresh produce sector

In 2016 shortly after the referendum, British Growers conducted a survey which indicated that the requirement for seasonal labour was in the region of 70,000 workers. As things stand following this announcement, we face going into the 2021 season with just 10,000 permits for non-UK workers, a shortfall of around 60,000.

I am working closely with the NFU on the case for increasing the number of permits to a more realistic level and will report on this as things develop over the next few weeks.

We will also need growers to contact their MPs to highlight the impact of this decision on their businesses, other local businesses and the local economy. It is important to highlight that most people coming to the UK for seasonal employment are not looking for residency status and are therefore not adding to the migration statistics.

Settled and pre -settled status

The options of settled and pre-settled status may not be the answer to every situation, but these options provide a route for workers who are currently working in the UK to remain here once the new rules come into force.

Settled and pre settled status applies to EU, EAA and Swiss citizens. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021

Settled status will normally be granted to those who have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years. The requirement on continuous is that people have been living in the UK for at lease 6 months in any 12-month period. If settled status is granted, people will be eligible to stay in the UK for as long as they like.

People with less that 5 years continuous residency will only be eligible for pre-settled status. To qualify for pre-settled status, an applicant must have started living in the UK before December 2020. After 5 years a person with pre-settled status can apply for settled status.

The rights associated with pre and settled status are the ability to

  • work in the UK
  • use the NHS for free as you do now
  • enrol in education or continue studying
  • access public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you’re eligible for them
  • travel in and out of the UK

Updates

We will continue to keep you updated once we have a better idea of the strategy for increasing the numbers of seasonal workers. This issue is of critical importance to the sector and will be a key priority for British Growers in the weeks and months ahead.

 

Jack Ward

CEO British Growers

February 2020

 

 

 

Grower confidence is reaching rock bottom

By Industry News

Grower confidence is reaching rock bottom

Brassica growers in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Cornwall and Scotland are assessing the impact of record volumes of winter rainfall on winter crops. Parts of Lincolnshire experienced half their annual average rainfall in the last three months of 2019 and the start of 2020 has been no better.

We may be in the depths of winter explained Jack Ward of British Growers, but brassica production should be in full swing. This is prime season for cauliflowers, savoy cabbages, kale, spring greens and Brussel sprouts. These are classic winter crops providing our staple vegetables during the winter months.

At a recent meeting, UK Brassica growers compared notes on the impact of the weather on their crops and the toll which 2019 and the first half of 2020 has and is likely to continue having on production. In the short-term crops like cauliflower, kale and Savoy cabbage are in reasonable supply but poor growing conditions in the autumn mean that these crops will start to run short in February and March. Excessive rain has depressed yield and increased disease levels and across the board and production levels are down dramatically.

And the bad news continues. Late cauliflowers due for harvest in April and May will be affected and are likely to be in short supply. And a similar picture is emerging for spring greens which fill the traditional hungry gap from April through to June. Some fields in Lincolnshire have wet patches where crops have died out as they struggle to survive, this will continue to affect crop yields up until the new season starts in June.

Grower confidence and a willingness to continue investing has been badly hit by two consecutive seasons of difficult conditions. Production costs have continuously outstripped returns and loss-making brassica crops are forcing growers to ask difficult questions about the future. Brassicas areas are declining with growers looking to lower risk cereal crops as a safer and more profitable alternative. There needs to be an urgent review around the sustainability of grower returns and the level of return required to invest effectively for the future. Lines, likes broccoli which demand high levels of labour input in the packaging process are especially vulnerable to increasing costs and in adequate returns.

There is a cruel irony here explained Jack Ward. As we embrace the importance of vegetables in the diet and recognise the need to increase our consumption of vegetables and fruit, our brassica growers are contemplating exit strategies rather than increased future investment.

We need to rethink the supply model for vegetables. While cheap vegetables may look like an attractive proposition, some of the current pricing models fall well short of allowing growers to meet the true costs of production. Ultimately this is eroding our supply based and productive capacity. This is not where we want or need to be as we move into a brave new post Brexit economy.

 

 

Love Your Greens, Brassica Growers’ Association

BGA House, Nottingham Road, Louth, Lincolnshire, LN11 0WB

telephone:   01507 353791 fax: 01507 600689

email: jack.ward@britishgrowers.org website:www.loveyourgreens.co.uk

Covent Garden Market Authority Team – DEFRA

By Industry News

Non-Executive Board Members Application

Covent Garden Market Authority Team (CGMA) at DEFRA are currently recruiting non-executive board members. The CGMA is a public statutory corporation that runs the UK’s largest wholesale fruit, vegetable and cut flower market in the UK. Located at Nine Elms in Vauxhall, the market is currently being rebuilt to create a brand new world class facility that will be at the heart of a vibrant new Food Quarter for London.

The CGMA Board provides leadership and strategic vision as the organisation focusses on the successful delivery of this exciting redevelopment project.

The campaign is now open with a closing date of 10th February 2020 at 12:00. Applications are to be made through the Cabinet Office Public Appointments website:

Covent Garden Market Authority -Non-Executive Directors

 

 

 

BCGA Press Release – Flooding 2019

By Industry News

17th December 2019

 

UK at risk of running low on carrot supplies after heavy flooding

 

  • More than half of UK carrot growers have been hit by recent flooding.
  • Producers in the main carrot growing regions in the North of England and the Midlands have been unable to lay down straw to protect crop from frost.
  • Growers say now real risk of the UK running low on domestic carrot supplies next Spring.

British-grown supplies of carrots – the UK’s favourite vegetable – are at risk of running low next Spring after the recent heavy floods, growers warned this week.

More than half of the UK’s carrot-growing areas have been hit by the recent flooding, which continues to prevent them from being able to put straw down to protect the crop from potential frost damage.

Commercial carrot growers across the North of England and the Midlands including Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Shropshire and Lancashire, have all been affected.

The harvesting of carrots is continuing, but flooded land has prevented growers from using the machinery and equipment necessary to spread straw. Growers are warning more wet weather or a frost could wipe out large amounts of the UK’s carrot harvest.

Coral Russell, from the British Carrot Growers Association, said:

“The flooding has caught a lot of growers out. It has stopped them spreading straw as they usually do at this time of year. They [the growers] are sitting on a wing and a pray and hoping that we get a dry weather spell to be able to put down straw to protect the crop.

 

“More than 50% of the carrot growing area in the UK has been affected. The only exception being those grown in East Anglia and Scotland. If we have a frost now or more wet weather then all the carrots that are not covered with straw will get damaged and be unsuited for the market. They’ll be rotten.”

 

Mark Strawson, from Nottinghamshire, and one of the UK’s biggest carrot growers, said:

 

“Unlike 2018, this year has generally proved to be an excellent growing season for carrots with both quality and yields above average. However, since mid-September unprecedented levels of rainfall have made field operation extremely difficult with very few entirely dry days recorded over an 8-week period. The worst affected areas are the East and West Midlands and Yorkshire where soils have been at field capacity for several weeks.

“This protracted wet period has not allowed growers to cover crops with straw which is vital to protect them from frost over the winter. With such a small area protected to date and field conditions remaining poor there is a very high risk of crop loss should the weather now turn cold. Such a situation would severely disrupt supplies to retail customers.”

For further information or to arrange an interview with Coral Russell at The British Carrot Growers Association, please contact Tom Levitt at Jane Craigie Marketing on tom.levitt@janecraigie.com or 07815 904 253.

Notes to Editor

Carrots are the nation’s favourite vegetable with 75% of Britons saying they regularly eat carrots and more than 10 billion carrots eaten every year. British-grown carrots are available all-year-round, with 93% of the ones we consume currently grown in the UK.

The British Carrot Growers Association (www.britishcarrots.co.uk) represents producers across the UK’s commercial growing counties of: Suffolk, Lancashire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Shropshire, Yorkshire and Scotland.