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Spalding and Moulton Seas End area businesses call on Government to introduce new visas to ease staffing shortage

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Calls are mounting for the Government to introduce new visas to tackle the labour shortage that is hitting agriculture, horticultre and its supply chains.

Organisations across the food and drink industry, including the National Farmers Union, have submitted a report asking the Government to introduce a 12-month Covid-19 Recovery Visa in order to alleviate the shortages.

They say this visa would provide a short-term response and allow firms to recruit critical roles such as lorry drivers. However, there are also calls for a short term visa to help bring in seasonal workers to get crops off our fields.

A labour shortage is hitting South Holland firms
A labour shortage is hitting South Holland firms

As we have previously reported, there are about 1,000 vacancies across the district as firms struggle to find workers in a range of roles and South Holland is short of an estimated 100 lorry drivers.

Some firms have shared that they are unable to get products out to customers as lorry drivers are not available.

Chairman of the South Holland branch of the NFU Chris Carter said: “This is an important issue and the Government has failed to recognise that the agriculture and horticulture need up to 80,000 seasonal workers each year. The current allowance is 25,000. That coupled with the lorry driver and other shortages makes life very difficult.

“Some people are really struggling to pick their crops.

“Crops are going to be left on the fields and people will be complaining about the lack of food on the shelves.”

One person who would like to see the introduction of a short-term visa is Simon Naylor.

Based in Moutlon Seas End, Naylor Farms is one of the biggest producers of coleslaw with its cabbage crops.

Mr Naylor says the staffing situation is currently okay but they are moving into the critical period of harvesting the cabbage crop, which runs between September and Christmas.

Without having the skilled labour to bring in the crop, the firm could face losing up to 30 per cent of supplies.

Mr Naylor said: “I have 12 teams of four people in Poland who have been coming to us for 10 years.

“I think what they need to bring in is a short-term work visa that we as a business can apply for. It would make it easier to get our workers through the border to work for us. There are two companies that have 30,000 visas and that is not enough. We have contacted them and they can’t give us any.

“It could impact on the harvest. In three weeks time we will see how many people we can get.”

Mr Naylor said that people can earn a good living working on the land but has stressed that it is piece work.

He has also been told stories of how Lithuanian combine drivers were turned away at Stansted Airport and have now found work in Denmark.

He said: “It is all down to Brexit.”

Andrew Goulding, of Wykeham Staff Services, is not experiencing any problems but feels that The Government could make changes to the settled status by removing the guarantee of how much workers need to earn.

He said: “It is keeping people from coming over.”

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