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'We are seeing a real shortage of seasonal labour'

Winter indoor crops are about finished and although the outdoor flower crops have been delayed by the late frosts they are virtually upon us.

Sweet Williams, Peonies, Sunflowers, Alliums all kick off within of weeks of each other so we shall all be pretty busy.

Direct mail orders have seen enormous growth during lockdown and just before Christmas we began one ourselves from the nursery called ‘Love Delivered’ which has been a whole new challenge.

Columnist Sue Lamb (47236420)
Columnist Sue Lamb (47236420)

Vaccines seem to be doing their job and we are seeing green shoots for a new normal not too far away.

I think many of us older generation will be cautious about large gatherings but signs are good.

Our industry is entering a huge period of change, automation is not where the government thinks it is and is both costly and time consuming to develop.

It will come but it will take time. Our flower crops both indoor and outdoor are labour hungry and we are seeing a real shortage of seasonal labour.

We always knew with Brexit, free movement would stop but we had hoped that the government would include ornamentals in any trial scheme for seasonal workers.

They are allowing 30,000 seasonal workers to enter the country for a fixed period but these are only allowed to be employed in food crops.

30,000 isn’t enough but I think until they see shortages on their plate numbers will not be increased. Their argument is with unemployment expected to rise and the numbers on benefits where it is we should be able to recruit locally but I can confirm first hand this doesn’t happen with the number required. I can say anyone who wants a job in a packhouse over the coming four months, students or locals, please do get in touch.

Like always, agriculture and horticulture both crave certainty but generally at the moment we see little of it.

Every trade deal talks of food coming this way and behind food follows plants and flowers, and every consignment increases the risks of pest and disease.

For flowers customers talk about long term deals but I have yet to see anything transpire into a written confirmation.

Over the years we have seen industries disappear and we need to look closely at ornamental horticulture to see it has a secure future.

In the meantime always look to support British when making a purchase be it food, plants or flowers and let’s hope sunny days are round the corner.

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