On my visit to Fruit Focus this year one message came across loudly and clearly.
Fruit farmers need better access to migrant workers. The Government’s pilot seasonal agricultural workers scheme is a step in the right direction but it’s clear that more action is needed to address labour shortages.
I visited the annual event in East Malling on 17 July to meet fruit growers from Kent and across the country to hear about how this season is going and what can be done to make things better.
I was delighted to speak on a panel alongside representatives from the NFU, Defra and a local farmer about our future immigration policy. Faversham and Mid Kent has some of the best fruit growers in the country, but I was also speaking in my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fruit and Vegetable Farmers.
I’m continuing to press Ministers in Defra and the Home Office to increase the number of migrant workers under the pilot scheme and make this a permanent scheme. The 2,500 people allowed into this country is not enough when farmers require around 70,000 seasonal workers every year.
The British fruit sector is a great success story and it mustn’t be held back because of a shortage of labour.