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'We need urgent Government action so that food and flowers can be picked, processed, and transported'

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In the weekly Word on the Ground column, NFU county adviser, Holland (Lincs) Johanna Musson discusses problems in the agricultural and horticultural industries.

I started my role as NFU County Adviser for the Holland (Lincs) area one month ago. I began with a meeting with farmers and growers from the Holland County, listening to the issues that they are encountering.

A key current issue is the extreme labour shortages in the area, both seasonal and permanent.

The horticultural and ornamental sectors are particularly badly affected with very little support currently available to them.

Farm businesses have done everything that they can to recruit staff domestically.

But even the increasingly competitive wages have not had the impact they needed as the labour pool is so limited.

The other issue is that the main areas facing higher unemployment tend to be urban, where not many agricultural businesses are located.

The situation has reached critical level and will likely cause some businesses to fail if not resolved soon.

The NFU is one of 12 organisations that have funded an independent report on the challenges that are being faced in the supply chain.

The report shows shows in detail the labour and skills shortages we are facing, with over 500,000 job vacancies in the sector and the average vacancy rate at 13%.

The main ask in the report is for a 12-month Covid 19 Recovery Visa to enable all involved in the supply chain to recruit critical roles.

This is a cross sector (Food and Farming) ask and a short-term measure to get businesses through the current crisis.

It also includes the ask for the seasonal worker scheme to be made permanent, expanded and to include ornamentals.

This report was sent to Ministers at the end of August and MPs were briefed at the beginning of September.

We need the Government to take urgent action to ensure our British food and flowers can be picked, processed, and transported to our customers.

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