Recruters in East of England fear the gap left by migrant workers in the region’s agricultural jobs market. 29 October 2008. More Eastern European immigrants have settled in Eastern England than anywhere else in the UK – due to the amount of farming work available in the region.
In the Fens – the Fenland produces more than a third of the UK’s vegetables – there are 27,000 agricultural jobs and more than half of the seasonal work in the fields is done by foreign workers – 15,000 non-EU migrants have been issued with agricultural work permits since 2007.
However, in the first quarter of 2008, 30 per cent fewer migrants from Eastern Europe registered for work in the UK than in the last quarter of 2007.
Brian Finnerty, spokesperson for the East Anglian branch of the National Farmer’s Union, said:
"There have been changes recently to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to limiting the numbers of permits and the countries that the workers come from to Romania and Bulgaria."
"Our members are finding it increasingly difficult to get enough seasonal workers because of the barriers put in our way by the Home Office and we are working hard to try to get the numbers increased."
"It is not a case of taking jobs from British workers. It is a well known fact that these are jobs British people aren’t willing to do.”
"Migrant workers play a vital role in the agricultural economy, which in turn underpins the food processing industry – which also provides thousands of jobs in the region. In today’s economic climate that should not be forgotten," he added.
A spokesperson for Peterborough-based Vital recruitment agency, which supplies migrant agricultural Labour to the Fenland, reffered to Christmas as a difficult time for the labour supply market.
"A lot of the workers want to go home to be with their families at that time of year and we have a huge hole to fill," he said.
"There are so many laws and regulations that it is not worth us approaching foreign recruitment agencies. I understand why there are so many regulatory barriers in place – justly so – but it doesn’t make our role easy when the jobs themselves are out there and we have so many hoops to jump through to fill them."
The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has launched a research project looking at the contribution of migrant workers to the Anglian economy – and will report its findings in January – but is keen to stress that at this time, it is not actively calling for more migrant workers to come to East Anglia.
Mark Allison, migrant workers’ manager at EEDA said:
"According to the most recent reports, migrant workers have had a positive impact on the region’s economy, and the region has benefited from the range of skills that migrants bring – everything from doctors and IT workers to researchers and developers. Migrant workers also fill job vacancies that are seen as undesirable by many, and businesses from across the region tell us that they rely on migrant labour to remain competitive."