Holbeach business has lost sales due to labour shortage
One of the area’s best-known flower growers has lost sales due to the chronic labour shortage and expects to see more problems in the future.
Taylors Bulbs says it is struggling to find staff to crop its products due to the demand for British workers after seeing its seasonal workforce slashed from 150 workers to just 25.
Previously, the Holbeach-based firm would employ EU workers to bring in its mixed crops of daffodil bulbs and potatoes but this is no longer possible following Brexit.
The Government has created 30,000 seasonal worker visas, which would allow an EU worker to do ‘farm work’ for six months – and the deadline for applications ended in June. However, these visas do not cover horticulture.
Director Adam Taylor, whose family has been growing and supplying flower bulbs since 1919, said: “In the spring we can have as many as 200 flower croppers if the season is right.
“This March, we had only 25. We had adjusted our aspirations according to the predicted shortages of seasonal workers, but we lost sales.
“In the summer months, 90% of our seasonal workers have been British and local. As well as being unable to employ the 10% from the EU because the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme does not allow us to do so for the harvest of ornamental horticulture, the British workers are now in huge demand from local businesses that previously employed far more EU workers than we ever did.
“Some work such as cropping daffodil flowers has previously been fulfilled by people who jump from harvesting edible crops one day to ornamental the next.
“For a mixed agricultural and horticultural business such as ours, to be denied the ability to employ the same EU worker to harvest all our crops also impacts on our edible production as well. It’s farcical.
Taylors has been struggling to recruit people for a range of skilled jobs, ranging from forklift and tractor drivers to experienced administrators.
Mr Taylor, said: “We interview everyone who applies. One Monday, we interviewed three candidates who applied over the previous weekend – one then said he wasn’t available for two weeks anyway, another said no because the work was too many hours, and the third accepted the job but didn’t turn up for work the next morning.
“We just about have enough but asking fewer people to work more hours to cover for the shortage is unsustainable and does not fit in with the culture of our workplace, particularly where we need to attract people to our business.”
The Horticultural Trades Association has put together a strategy, which includes employment, with the aim of growing the industry to make £413billion by 2030.