Flower farmers have warned they are on track for massive losses in sales this year and will be forced to leave millions of blooms to rot. The sector, worth billions of pounds, was not included in a post-Brexit Government scheme to bring in foreign farm workers.
Alex Newey, who owns Varfell Farms in Cornwall, said his current workforce is almost half that of its pre-Brexit number.
Having previously employed 750 workers to pick daffodils on his land, he now has only 400 to do the same job.
This, he said, has forced him to make tough business decisions as the UK’s largest daffodil grower.
He said he has no choice but to pick certain parts of his annual crop and leave them to be wasted because he simply does not have the manpower to harvest every flower.
Before Britain left the EU, the vast majority of pickers on UK flower farms were from overseas – mainly from eastern Europe.
Under new UK rules, EU citizens who have been granted settled or pre-settled status are permitted to work on farms in Britain.
But there is still a massive shortfall in the number of people applying for jobs.
Only farms which grow food are eligible to use the Government’s seasonal workers pilot scheme.
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He told the Financial Times: “The scheme has to be adapted to include ornamental horticulture or big swaths of ornamental farming will go to waste.
“We need more pickers or we’ve got to find something else to farm.”
The Government has told famers they must do more to attract British workers.
Under the seasonal workers pilot scheme, up to 30,000 labourers can travel to the UK to work on farms in 2021.
The initiative was rolled out after Britain’s Brexit transition period expired on December 31, ending the free movement of people from the EU.
And last year the Government offered help to fruit and vegetable growers amid labour concerns over the pandemic.
Ministers agreed to expand a pilot scheme aimed at helping farmers.
It gives farmers the option to bring in agricultural workers from poorer countries on visas.
The scheme was first announced in 2018 and allowed farmers to employ migrant workers for up to six months.