Category

Industry News

British Growers News Update

By Industry News

New Flexible Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is changing to allow flexible furloughing from 1st July. As the scheme progresses, it will also involve greater contributions from employers before closing in October. This is an overview of how the scheme will change from 1st July and is based on HMRC’s guidance.

Flexible furlough

  • From 1st July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work on any working pattern whilst still being able to claim for hours not worked below their regular hours
  • If claiming in advance, employers will need to give the exact number of hours an employee will work during the claim period and will need to pay back some of the grant to HMRC if an employee works for longer than this
  • Employers can also continue to furlough employees full-time, so long as they have completed a 3-week or longer furlough prior to 1st July (see below)

Closure of scheme to new entrants

  • Only those who have been furloughed for a 3-week or longer period by 30th June can continue to be furloughed or be re-furloughed on either a full-time or flexible basis
  • This means that an employee must have been furloughed by 10th June at the latest to qualify
  • The only exception is for those returning from statutory parental leave after the 10th June, providing (a) the employee has been included in a HMRC RTI submission prior to 19th March 2020 and (b) the employer has already made a CJRS claim for at least one other employee)
  • The total number of employees claimed for in a CJRS grant from 1st July cannot exceed the highest total number of employees in any claim prior to 1st July.

 

Bounce back scheme

A ‘bounce back’ plan of trade measures for the agriculture, food and drink industry has been announced to support businesses that have been impacted by coronavirus.

The agriculture, food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing industry and plays a vital role in the UK’s food supply chain. It contributed £121 billion to the UK economy in 2018 and provided around 4 million jobs.

The new measures will support producers, manufacturers and agri-tech companies across the food supply chain, from farm to fork, and has been developed with insight from a wide range of stakeholders.

Sections of the UK agriculture, food and drink industry have been significantly impacted by Coronavirus. Although they have done well to adapt, exports have been hit and the Government is committed to supporting the food industry to get back into international markets and start growing market share once again.

For more information https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bounce-back-plan-for-agriculture-food-and-drink-industry-launched

 

COVID 19 shopping habits – demand for frozen food up 32%

New figures from Nielsen show sales at convenience stores rose by 17 per cent in the four weeks to 13 June. Demand for convenience shopping outpaced overall total till sales in the grocery market (14 per cent) during the same period.

The figures show that overall sales at bricks and mortar grocery retailers grew by six per cent, but online sales grew 115 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Over the last 12 weeks, Iceland (+23 per cent) has outperformed all other major UK grocery retailers, following growth from its new Food Warehouse stores, as well as the surge in consumer demand for frozen foods, which grew by 32 per cent across the industry in the last four weeks.

Sales at the Co-op (+16 per cent) also grew faster than the big-four major UK supermarkets, as shoppers continue to find it convenient to do a larger shop at a local convenience store.

 

Grants of between £500 and £25,000 available to help farmers recover from February floods

A £6 million fund to support farmers seriously affected by February’s floods opened for applications on 18 June.

Eligible farmers and landowners in parts of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and North and East Yorkshire can apply for between £500 and £25,000 under the Farming Recovery Fund to support their recovery efforts.

These grants follow earlier rounds of funding for those affected in the July 2019 and November 2019 floods, bringing the total pot of funding to £10 million.

The Rural Payments Agency has introduced a simplified online portal for the latest round of applications to make it easier for farmers to apply.

For further details about the scheme and information on how to access the funding

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/farming-recovery-fund-extension-2020

British Growers News Update: Covid-19/Veg Power

By Industry News

Quarantine Regulations

With effect from Monday 8th June anyone entering the UK (subject to lengthy list of exemptions) is required to self-isolate for 14 days. Among the list of exemption are seasonal workers who have an offer of employment for seasonal work to carry out specific activities in edible horticulture on a named farm. But even seasonal workers need to complete the Public Health passenger locator form before they travel to the UK and then immediately go to the farm where they are working. Seasonal workers can start work immediately but they must self-isolate on the farm for 14 days. They will then need to follow advice for seasonal agricultural workers coming to England to work on farms.

It’s worth noting that the regulations and exemptions will be reviewed every 21 days to ensure that they remain proportionate and are still justified by the best scientific evidence available.

For more advice on employment of seasonal worker visit.

2-metre social distancing

There is an ongoing debate within Govt about reducing the current 2m guidance on social distancing. Canada, Spain and the UK operate with 2m; Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands operate with 1.5m and Denmark, France and Singapore operate with 1m. Needless to say opinions within Govt are divided among between those that think the infection rate needs to be reduced further and those that argue to re-start the economy. There is nothing concrete to report other than it is under active discussion.

Test and trace

There has been a lot of concern within the wider food industry about the implications of the test and trace system and the impact of people self-isolating for 14 days if it can be evidenced that they have been in contact with someone carrying the virus. The potential for the test and trace system to shut down elements of the food industry can’t be ignored. If anyone has had a negative or positive experience of the test and trace system and want fed back to Govt, please get in touch.

There is an interesting qualification on the definition of contact with an infected person where Perspex screens are used. Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above. This is set out in the test and trace guidance document.

For more information on the test and trace requirements please visit.

 

Government Intervention in Trade Credit Insurance announced

The Govt has announced today that it will provide £10bn backing for the Trade Credit Insurance market via a reinsurance scheme. This requires businesses to buy cover from trade credit insurers as usual, and these insurers will then be able to buy cover for themselves from the Government. The scheme, which covers domestic trade, imports and exports, will be backdated to April 1 and will operate until the end of 2020.

For more information please visit.

 

Veg Power: Seasonal Veg promotion

With schools, restaurants, and hotels closed good local seasonal vegetables destined for the food services sector is currently going to waste while other veg is in short supply or being imported. Veg Power – Seasonal Veg Campaign – Request to Growers has been asked by the Cabinet Office and DEFRA to mobilise an army of food writers, chefs, nutritionists, and other food system influencers to advocate seasonal veg on their blogs, tweets and press activities.

 

What are we asking you to do?

We are keen to tell the story of these vegetables, to bring the fork a little closer to the farm and recognise the dedication growers are showing in these difficult times. We are keen to share images from your farms – the first of the crops coming up for harvest and heading off to our stores, the people, the farms and the produce. We are trying to connect our audience to their food, to feel the passion and quality of in-season British vegetables.

 

Veg Power – Seasonal Veg Campaign – Social Media Brief

Veg Power – Seasonal Veg Campaign – Request to Growers

NFU Petition on Food Standards

As the UK begins to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world, we need all our food to meet the UKs world leading quality standards that consumers have come to expect? Here is the link to the NFU Food standards petition which is calling on the UK government to ensure all food imports are produced to the same high standards required from British producers. Sign the petition.

 

Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme Update (CJRS)

 

On the 29th May the Chancellor announced details of the changes to the job retention scheme beyond June 2020.

 

Closure for new entrants

The Scheme will close completely to new entrants from 30th June. This means that the last possible date you can furlough a new entrant to the scheme is Wednesday 10th June. Although you can bring staff back and furlough them again, from 1st July you will only be able to furlough staff who have already been furloughed for at least three weeks prior to the 30th June.

 

Contribution from employers

Currently the Scheme covers 80% of wages, plus National Insurance and pension contributions. This is changing as follows:

 

June and July: The Government will continue to meet the cost of 80% wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer NI contributions and pension contributions to the auto enrolment minimum.

 

August: The Government will continue to meet the cost of 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 but the employer will need to pay NI and pension contributions.

 

September: The Government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50, while the employer will need to pay 10% of wages plus NI and pension contributions.

 

October: The Government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875, while the employer will need to pay 20% of wages plus NI and pension contributions.

 

Pay received

The amount of pay received by staff on furlough will not change and will remain at 80% of normal pay for the remainder of the Scheme.

 

Flexible furlough

With effect from 1st July 2020 employers will be able to bring employees back to work on a part-time basis. The time employees are at home will be funded through the furlough scheme, while the time they are at work will need to be paid by the employer at their normal 100% pay rate.

For example, if someone normally works five days a week, they could be furloughed three days a week and be at work two days a week. For the three days they are at home, they will be paid at 80%, reclaimable from the Government through the Scheme. For the two days they are at work, they will be paid in full, funded entirely by the employer.

Employers will need to submit information through the HMRC portal outlining how many hours the employee would normally be expected to work and the actual hours they have worked, so that the correct amount of funding can be claimed.

 

More details about how flexible furlough scheme will work are going to be provided on Friday 12th June.

 

Scheme ending

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will end completely on 31st October 2020, which means employers relying on the funding will need to have made decisions about bringing staff back or made redundancies in plenty of time to have undertaken any consultation or other process necessary before this date.

 

For further information on the scheme please visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Growers Covid 19 update

By Industry News

Praise for the UK food industry

During questions to Defra ministers in the House of Commons yesterday, Defra Secretary of State Rt Hon George Eustice MP was keen to praise the efforts of the food supply chain over the last weeks to keep the nation fed. He remarked that “our food manufacturers increased output by some 50%”. He also said “the crisis has brought home the crucial importance of domestic food production. We are fortunate to have some of the most innovative food manufacturers and producers in the world, and I pay tribute to all they have done in recent months.”

Food Standards Agency guidance

This guidance from the FSA relates specifically to food production

Further guidance: although this guidance which is intended for use in factories, it has got some useful information about how to deal with potential COVID 19 risks in the workplace.

GLAA support for farms

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority has contacted agricultural labour sites across the south of England and Wales to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Advice on how to spot the signs of labour exploitation and where to report concerns has been issued ahead of the GLAA visiting farms directly over upcoming weeks to give further guidance to the industry.

The engagement activity ties in with the temporary licensing scheme established by the GLAA for the food production sector in March, the agency said.

Temporary licences are currently being granted to businesses operating within the wider labour supply industry who wish to support GLAA licence holders to feed the nation.

Phase two of the operation will see GLAA investigators conduct welfare visits to ensure that farmers are getting the help that they need and that their workers are not at risk of exploitation.

Public Health Measures for all UK arrivals

On Friday, 22nd May, the Home Office announced border measures that will be applied to all international arrives from the 8th June and reviewed every 3 weeks. The reasoning behind the measures is to manage the risk of transmission being reintroduced from abroad to avoid a second wave of infection.

Alternative quarantine arrangements have been put int place in “recognition of the critical contribution seasonal agricultural workers in the edible horticulture sector make to the food supply chain and the time criticality of the picking season.” Full information on how these measures will work will be available shortly. In essence, during the first 14 days of a workers arrival, they will be able to work but they will be required to stay on the farm; there will be a set of defined exceptional circumstances available with the full guidance.

If you have any queries please direct them to accesstolabourfoodchain@defra.gov.uk .

Online Grocery sales up by 33%

The UK’s online grocery market will expand by a third in 2020, according to projections by Mintel, and will be worth £17.9 billion by 2024. Moreover, the changes to consumer behaviour brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, are likely to be long-lasting. UK consumers are expected set to spend £16.8 billion on internet groceries in 2020, up from £12.7bn in 2019. This comes after growth had been slowing down since 2015, reaching just 2.9% in 2019.

The Mintel survey was carried out between 28 February and 23 April and found that 36% of British consumers reported increasing their online shopping, with 50% trying to limit the time they spend in bricks-and-mortar stores and 9% using click-and-collect more frequently.

Amazon – Is this the next big disruptor in the grocery market

In the face of growing demand for online groceries, Amazon has announced plans to launch a super-fast delivery service of fresh products in the UK, reports The Grocer. The service will be free for Prime subscribers and is aimed at bringing rapid grocery delivery to nearly 40% cent of the country’s households by the end of 2020. The Ultra Fast grocery delivery service is already available to Prime members in the US.

Amazon is making this move at a time when the UK’s largest online grocer Ocado is reported to be struggling to open additional delivery slots due to unprecedented demand during the coronavirus lockdown and has been forced to limit delivery slots to existing customers only.

Could home delivery of fruit and veg become part of the new normal.

Source:- The Food Foundation

Stay safe in these difficult times.

British Growers Team

British Growers News Update: Covid 19

By Company News, Industry News

Govt COVID recovery strategy

This is quite a long read and there is not much which is specific to fresh produce, but it is quite interesting and provides some useful background. Covid recovery strategy.

 

Quarantine arrangements for International travellers

This is the statement from Govt about international travellers:

The Government will require all international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government. The Government is working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate implementation across the UK.

Small exemptions to these measures will be in place to provide for continued security of supply into the UK and so as not to impede work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations. All journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures.

These international travel measures will not come into force on 13th May but will be introduced as soon as possible. Further details, and guidance, will be set out shortly, and the measures and list of exemptions will be kept under regular review.

Defra is aware of the issue surrounding seasonal workers and a range of other international arrivals into the UK that are critical to the effective functioning of the food sector. We are expecting the list of exemptions to be published shortly.

 

Updated travel advice

One of the many challenges facing growers is the transport of growers to and from site. The Govt has recently updated its advice, there is a specific section on the use of private cars and other vehicles.

 

Guidance for construction and outdoor workers

The Govt. advice for outdoor workers has been updated.

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) extended

The Chancellor has confirmed that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended for 4 months until the end of October. From now until the end of July there will be no changes to the current scheme. From August, there will be greater flexibility for employers having the opportunity to part time furlough which will help to support the transition back to work. Between August and October, employers will share the cost of the 80% furloughed salary with government. Further details regarding implementation of this scheme will be announced by the end of May.

 

Seasonal labour – Call for Evidence

On 13th May the Migration Advisory Committee launched a 6 week call for evidence focussed on a review of the shortage occupation lists. Sectors are recommended to share their recruitment experiences with the Committee, and these will inform the recommendations when it reports to the Home Secretary in September 2020. The Committee acknowledges the extra pressures businesses are under as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and this will be reflected in the final report.

Further information here.

 

Veg Power seasonal veg campaign

As a result of a chance conversation with someone in Defra, Veg Power has been commissioned to promote the purchase and consumption of in-season vegetables using social media, web and PR. The campaign will launch in late May and run for 2 months, and possibly beyond. Veg Power will be mobilising a network of chef’s, nutritionists, food writers, supermarkets and media outlets to champion in-season vegetables. As part of the campaign, Veg Power is keen to push growers to the fore, to tell the story of how vegetables get to store and build excitement.

The range of crops they are looking to promote includes:

Asparagus

Cucumbers

Mushrooms

Salad Leaves

Courgettes

Tomatoes

Beetroot.

The promotion is due to begin in late May and run through to July.

… a bit more from the Veg Power campaign

If UK diets hit current recommendations for veg, it’s estimated that we could see:

21,000 premature deaths avoided every year [GBD, 2017]

84% growth of the UK horticultural sector [Food Foundation, 2020]

March was the biggest month EVER for grocery sales

Retailers benefit, with 22% sales growth w/e March 22nd

Boost for convenience and independent stores (30% growth) and veg boxes schemes (111% growth)

 

What did we buy during lockdown?

 

 

 

Where did we buy it from?

 

British Growers News Update: Covid 19

By Company News, Industry News

Support during the Coronavirus outbreak – CBILS and farming businesses

 

Background

On the 3rd April the Government announced extensions to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which was originally launched on the 23rd March as part of a package of measures to support businesses hit by Coronavirus. This means that all viable small businesses affected by Coronavirus, and not just those viable businesses unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible if the lender believes they will need finance to see them through these unprecedented times. This means many more farming businesses are now eligible to take part in the scheme.

 What is the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supports viable small and medium-sized businesses experiencing difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak to access finance, if external finance is the right answer.

The scheme helps all viable UK-based businesses with an annual turnover of up to £45 million, to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to 6 years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment (BIP) to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees. This means smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

By providing an 80% government guarantee on eligible lending, this scheme gives over 40 lenders the confidence to keep lending to viable businesses that have been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak but are facing significant cash-flow difficulties in the short-term.

No lender can take a personal guarantee for a loan of less than £250,000 that is supported by the CBILS.

Over 40 accredited lenders provide loans supported by the scheme, including all the major banks.

Farming businesses

The agricultural sector has the same eligibility criteria as all of the other sectors within the CBILS eligibility criteria. An SME operating within the agricultural sector does not have to prove their eligibility in any different way to an SME operating in other sectors e.g. retail or manufacturing.

The maximum value of lending that can be delivered to an SME operating in the agricultural sector is the same as for any other sector i.e. £5m up to 6 years for term loans and asset finance, and 3 years for revolving credit and invoice finance.

The only difference relates to the level of the BIP (to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees) an agricultural SME can receive; this is restricted to a maximum of €100,000.

Do any other payments received reduce the amount of BIP that can be offered to farm businesses through CBILS?

Certain payments you receive may count towards the amount of BIP. In this instance, these payments are made under the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current Coronavirus outbreak. Other payments such as the Basic Payments Scheme, the Rural Development Programme for England, or those received as Agricultural de-minimis will not affect the value of BIP that can be made.

How do farm businesses apply for a CBILS loan?

In the first instance farming businesses should contact their usual finance provider. Following expansion of the scheme farming businesses should consider re-contacting their lender if they have previously been unsuccessful in securing finance, as they may now be eligible. Businesses may also consider approaching one of the other 40 accredited lenders if they have been unable to access the finance they need through their own bank.

UK Finance have issued a statement on behalf of the sector which announced that banks, building societies and credit card providers are committed to supporting their business customers in continuing to trade, and would encourage businesses to speak to their lender if they need finance.

What about larger businesses?

The new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £250 million. For firms with a turnover of more than £250 million the maximum loan is £50 million.

This will give banks the confidence to lend to more businesses which are impacted by coronavirus but which they would not lend to without CLBILS. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest.

Bounce Back Loan

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will launch on the 4th May 2020 and will help small and medium sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years with no repayments due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan. The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders. We will circulate further details about the scheme as they become available.

For further information visit GOV.UK or email agritrade@defra.gov.uk.

 

 

Government recovery strategy

A recent unofficial report suggests that seven guidance documents have been drawn up by cabinet office minister Michael Gove and business secretary Alok Sharma, and these will form the basis for the government’s proposals to get people back to work in the coming weeks. The documents cover workers in seven different settings: hotel and restaurant staff; those who work in other people’s homes; factory workers; people working outdoors; people working in vehicles; shop workers; and office workers.

Businesses with more than five employees must produce a written risk assessment of working conditions for their staff if they wish to reopen during the pandemic. But even after the first relaxation of some lockdown measures, expected to be announced by Boris Johnson on Sunday, it will remain the case that those who can work from home must continue to do so.

 

 

Important announcement on changes to the deadline for the BPS scheme

2020 claim deadline extended to 15 June 2020

The government has confirmed that the deadline for 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue claims, Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims, and woodland legacy revenue claims, without penalty, is extended by one month to midnight on 15 June 2020, in recognition of the disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19).

The period for making amendments without penalty is extended to midnight on 30 June 2020.

The final deadline, with penalty, is extended to midnight on 10 July 2020.

 

Seasonal Workers update

Pick for Britain website has launched. The website is a joint public sector and industry initiative to bring together those who are looking for work on UK farms over the harvest period with recruiters who have roles to fill. The website will act as a central hub to signpost people to the jobs available and to provide information about this type of work.

 

Important announcement for RPA inspections

The RPA have been looking at ways of moving forward in relation to claims inspections whilst the current Government restrictions are in place. As all inspections visits to customers’ own premises have been cancelled, the RPA and DEFRA have put in place a number of options to complete the inspections remotely.

The options are: –

  • PO’s email documents to their RPA inspector.
  • Where documents cannot be emailed, the PO should contact their inspector for an address to post the documentation either by tracked post or with a reputable courier.
  • Where there are specific systems such as payroll, which cannot be downloaded, the RPA can view these remotely with the PO via Microsoft Teams.
  • Provide the inspector with access to your PO’s cloud through they could view data normally seen on site

As a last resort, the RPA will consider a limited inspection visit with full social distancing.

It is important to note that all these options apply to both annual 2019 claims where inspections were not completed prior to the lockdown as well as any arrears/interim claims for the 2020 operational programmes.

British Growers News Update: Covid 19

By Company News, Industry News

Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is being extended to include additional frontline workers who are symptomatic, and members of their household who are symptomatic. This will allow frontline workers to return to work if they, or members of their household, test negative for coronavirus.

The definition of front-line workers includes the following

Critical personnel in the production and distribution of food, drink and essential goods, including those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and deliver.

There will be two testing options:

Testing at one of the national drive-through centres which are currently being expanded in capacity and location; and

Home testing kits for those employees unable to travel to testing centres which will be delivered via Amazon courier.

Please note that these arrangements currently only relate to testing in England and we are seeking clarity on Scotland and Wales. Follow the link for further information .

 

 

Pick for Britain

After the soft launch of the pick for Britain campaign, the Secretary of State has officially launched

the scheme. We have attached the official communication from George Eustice for information.

Further details about the scheme can be found at the site

 

 Industry guidance

AHDB have been working on several hubs, collating the relevant government guidance for growers to refer to:

Coronavirus: advice for farmers and growers (section on seasonal labour for horticulture)

Best practices to avoid the spread of coronavirus for seasonal workers on fruit and vegetable farms

 

PPE in the food sector

We are working closely with the Food and Drink Federation on a range of food industry related issues. One of these is the availability of PPE. The FDF has set up a small working group to look at PPE issues as they affect the food sector. This is a short summary of the position to date:

Maintaining food production needs PPE

During this crisis there has been a significant increase in demand for PPE that has led to availability issues in food sectors

Healthcare sectors must be the national priority for PPE provision, but there is a clear policy and political argument that food production, as an essential sector supporting the national effort, is worthy of PPE prioritisation

are asking government colleagues and politicians to prioritise availability of PPE for essential roles in the food sector

The food sectors listed below collectively need around 200,000 FFP2/FFP3 face masks every week for regular jobs within their supply chains

We are committed to working with and supporting the PPE manufacture and distribution supply chain and recognise their efforts to assist food production

Letter from M&S                                                      

We have received the attached letter from Stuart Machin M&S Managing Director for Food, addressed to Minette Batters President of the NFU and agreed to circulate it with this newsletter.

 

Stay safe in these difficult times.

 

British Growers Team

 

British Growers News Update: Covid-19 Farm Safety Guidance

By Industry News

Latest guidance from PHE for on farm situations.

British Growers would like to make you aware that further guidance from Public Health England (PHE) has been released on the Government Website which provides more specific guidance for ‘on farm situations’. The following is a brief extract of the advice. Please refer to the links below for the full text.

The Government website states that

During this time of unprecedented disruption, the UK Government is not asking all businesses to shut – indeed it is important for business to carry on.

The main guidance from PHE continues to be that all employees should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so. Not everyone can work from home: certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work.

The guidance released 08.04.2020 is specifically aimed at outdoor businesses, which include farms, and covers instances where social distancing cannot be achieved:

  • If a 2-metre distance cannot be maintained, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible.
  • where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
  • If workers have to share enclosed spaces such as the cabs of vehicles, they should keep the window open for ventilation and they should be careful to avoid touching their face at all times. On leaving the enclosed space, they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more or use hand sanitiser when they cannot wash their hands.
  • as much as possible, keep teams of workers together, “cohorting”, and keep teams as small as possible. Where possible, fixing these cohorts so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same individuals

 

A link to guidance can be found here.

 

Additional guidance available here, also released 08.04.2020 relates to food processing plants:

Food safety practices in food processing plants should continue to be delivered to the highest hygiene standards including the use of some personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing.

Food hygiene guidance: A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) that includes existing food hygiene guidance and HACCP processes should be followed.

All employers are expected to follow social distancing guidance, including food businesses, as far as is reasonably possible. Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures may be put in place to protect employees. Once staff have left the food processing areas and removed protective clothing, social distancing and further hand washing guidance should be adhered to.

 

It is likely that as understanding of Covid-19 increase the guidance will continue to be updated. We will keep you informed of any additional information. Please not that this document is not advice given by British Growers Association Limited but comprises extracts of PHE guidance.

 

 

Stay safe in these difficult times.

 

British Growers Team

 

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

To Download this newsletter, please click here 200326 British Growers newsletter

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