The NPA has outlined why the pig industry needs to have continued access to EU labour after we leave the EU.
The association has submitted a second tranche of written evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s inquiry into labour constraints in the agricultural sector. This was after an appearance in front of the committee by chief executive Zoe Davies had to be cancelled due to the recent snow.
You can view the submission here
In its submission the NPA says the situation ‘continues to deteriorate slowly’. “The important point needs to be reiterated that that this situation is not being caused by Brexit just exacerbated by it,” it says.
“What we need to address is the fundamental lack of desire by people, regardless of where they were born, to work in agriculture. EU workers have filled the gap created by a lack of UK nationals who are interested in doing the job and for now, we need continued access to these people.”
The NPA submission highlights results from last autumn’s NPA labour survey, which found that 65% of members were finding it harder secure EU labour since the June 2016 Brexit vote. No respondents said it had become easier. Nearly a third of NPA members who replied stated that they have had EU migrant labourers leave the UK since the EU referendum.
The NPA submission adds: “The main problem here is that across the world, agriculture is seen as the bottom rung on the career hierarchy and we (both industry and Government) haven’t done an effective job of communicating to people that not only is growing and providing food absolutely critical, but also so much more technologically advanced in many sectors.”
It said the industry needed to invest in businesses to upgrade old farm buildings and use new technology and innovation, including automation where possible, in order to be better able to recruit and retain staff. Farmers could also invest in fewer, better skilled staff.
The response outlines steps that have been taken to better attract and train domestic labour and highlights further steps that need to be taken, including accessing school leavers and making apprenticeships more accessible.
But it stresses that we need to retain access to EU labour and that seasonal schemes will not fill the gap for the pig sector. “The issue is that we need permanent workers to come and work in the pig industry which means that if we employ EU migrants, they need to stay/live here. This isn’t the same issue as seasonal workers, as they come, do the work and then leave again,” the submission states.
“We need to ensure that people come here to work – and therefore to ensure that migration is controlled in that respect and doesn’t allow people to come to the UK with no job to go to. We need to have some kind of immigration system in place that continues to allow ‘unskilled’ people to come here to work but that also allays the concerns of the general public by preventing unfettered access.”