World’s largest daffodil grower in Cornwall is forced to let fields of flowers ROT because there are not enough pickers available after Brexit
- Varfell Farms in Penzance, Cornwall, is the largest daffodil grower in the world
- They produces 500 million stems a year and need 700 workers to pick them
- But they are heavily reliant on migrant worker and Brexit ended free movement
- Fields of flowers are being left to rot as there are not enough pickers for harvest
Fields of flowers are being left to rot in Cornwall because not enough pickers are available to harvest the crop following Brexit.
The world’s largest daffodil grower, Varfell Farms in Penzance, Cornwall, produces 500 million stems a year and needs 700 workers to pick them.
The crops are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and the daffodils industry is heavily reliant on migrant workers from the EU to help their annual harvest.
But since Covid and the end of free movement following Brexit, the business only has around 400 flower pickers.
The business’ owner Alex Newey said that it has to let daffodils rot in the fields as a result.
The world’s largest daffodil grower, Varfell Farms in Penzance, Cornwall, has been forced to leave fields of flowers rotting because not enough pickers are available to harvest the crop following Brexit
The Cornish business produces 500 million stems a year and needs 700 workers to pick them but only have 400 since the new free movement rules came into effect post-Brexit
‘We can’t harvest them, we don’t have enough pickers to pick them,’ he said.
‘We’re losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.’
The UK Government’s post-Brexit immigration plans moved the UK away from offering visas to low-skilled migrant workers from Europe, drastically reducing the number of workers coming to the UK.
Hopes that Cornish workers could step into the shoes of those who are now unable to travel from the European Union have been dashed.
The crops are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and the daffodils industry is heavily reliant on migrant workers from the EU to help their annual harvest
Hopes that Cornish workers could step into the shoes of those who are now unable to travel from the European Union have been dashed
Jersey potato farmers fly in workers from the Philippines to stop crops rotting in the fields and plug gap left by Romanian and Polish migrants after Brexit
Workers from the Philippines have been recruited to work on farms in Jersey to plug the gap left in the wake of Brexit.
Growers had feared that Jersey Royal potatoes would be left to rot in the fields after farm workers, many of whom were Polish, abandoned the island after the EU referendum.
Farmers say the void has finally been filled by Filipino workers who were ‘keeping the farming industry going’ on the Channel Island.
Filipino workers at work on Manor Farm, which specialises in growing Jersey Potatoes
Peter Le Maistre, president of the Jersey Farmers Union, explained that the impact of Brexit had led to more farm workers being recruited from further afield.
He said: ‘Since the Brexit vote in 2016 the economy has improved significantly in Poland compared to when they first came to work in Jersey around 2001.
‘So it was getting more and more difficult to find workers from Eastern Europe. A couple of years ago we started to look around for another source of labour.’
Mr Le Maistre said that a contact of the union in Jersey had heard of Filipino workers being employed through an agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
‘We have significant recruitment drives for local workers to come and harvest crops,’ added Mr Newey.
‘It’s idealistic to think that because of Covid and the higher than usual unemployment rates that those people would come in and do that work.
‘I would say that a daffodil harvester is to be highly respected because the work is very hard.
‘You’re out in the cold weather, it’s in Cornwall, it blows pretty hard down there.
‘It’s wet and you’re bending over picking daffodils for three months.
‘Frankly, the people that we’ve had to come and do this work, the locals, may last a day or two days, but they certainly don’t last two or three months.’
A scheme to attract seasonal workers from other parts of the world does not currently include flower picking as part of its remit.
The daffodils industry is heavily reliant on migrant workers from the EU sparking fears it could be brought to its knees by Brexit.
Mr Newey said: ‘The seasonal worker pilot scheme will allow workers from outside of the EU – that’s the important bit, outside the EU – under a visa scheme to come in and harvest food crops.
‘There is significant pools of available workers from places such as the Ukraine, Moldova and further afield in South America.
‘But for the time being that’s only for edible crops. It does not include ornamental crops. By definition, flowers are excluded from that.’
Mr Newey has raised his concerns with the government.
‘I have to say the responses are positive and we are hopeful that the ornamentals sector will be included in the scheme, but as yet it hasn’t happened. In any event, we’re too late for this flower season.’
Earlier this month Varfell Farms was given permission by Cornwall Council to install 49 caravans for workers on the site.
Matt Jarrett, from the company, told a planning meeting that the industry annually contributes £150 million to the UK economy.
He explained that the business was now farming 2,881 acres and had 52 full-time staff as well as 600 seasonal staff.
He added that his operation supplied daffodils to all UK supermarkets as well as exporting them to Europe, the USA and Dubai.
Earlier this month Varfell Farms was given permission by Cornwall Council to install 49 caravans for workers on the site
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