UK Horticulture already suffering from Brexit


Britain’s horticulture farms suffered a 12.5% shortfall in seasonal workers in 2017 as numbers coming from continental Europe fell, it has been revealed.

The first full year following the Brexit referendum was the first time since the National Farmers Union began compiling figures in 2014 that growers were unable to recruit sufficient workers. Opponents of Brexit said the figures proved that the government’s position on EU withdrawal had resulted in fruit and vegetables being left to rot for lack of workers to pick them.

The NFU’s labour survey for December 2017 showed:

  • A shortfall of 15.6% in the number of seasonal workers in the horticultural sector that month, bringing the average over the course of the year to 12.5%.
  • The worst month was September, when growers reported a 29.3% shortage at a time when many crops are being harvested.
  • Over the course of the year 30,585 out of 34,962 seasonal vacancies were filled.
  • Almost 67% of seasonal workers were from Romania and Bulgaria, with 32%  from eight other EU countries in eastern and central Europe.
  • Fewer than 1% of the seasonal workers carrying out jobs such as fruit-picking were UK nationals – 169 individuals in the survey.

NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: “It is clear that solutions are still needed to ensure that farmers and growers have access to sufficient numbers of workers for both forthcoming seasons and post-Brexit. Access to both seasonal and permanent workers is crucial across all farming sectors, and they are incredibly important to ensuring farmers can continue producing food to feed the nation.”




“The NFU’s survey of labour providers shows that the availability of workers continues to tighten, and I would urge government to find a solution for the whole industry that ensures it has access to the people it needs.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign for close ties with the EU, said: “The government’s zealotry on Brexit and immigration is leading to a crisis in the British fruit industry. Fruit and veg is literally being left to rot in the fields because workers from the EU are increasingly unwilling to work here thanks to Brexit.”

She said the “minuscule” proportion of seasonal farm workers being recruited in the UK showed that it was “wishful thinking” to believe that local employees could fill the gap left by absent EU nationals.

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Parliamentary committee relaunches horticulture and agriculture labour enquiry


EFRA is relaunching an enquiry into the sector labour crisis, which led to calls for a new seasonal workers scheme as Brexit’s impact hit recruitment.

April 2017 the then EFRA Committee produced a report into ‘Feeding the nation: labour constraints’. This report followed a short inquiry into the availability of labour for work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors and investigated the degree to which there was a labour shortage in those sectors, the main reasons for any such shortage and the effect the UK’s vote to leave the EU was having on recruitment of foreign workers.

The Committee has decided to re-launch and re-open that inquiry to investigate whether the labour situation faced by those working in agriculture, horticulture and food production has improved or deteriorated over the past year, and to inquire into whether the Government’s statements at the time have proven accurate.

The Committee will be holding evidence sessions between now and the Easter recess and is seeking written evidence to inform its inquiry. The Committee would welcome written submissions from businesses and organisations in the agriculture, horticulture and food sectors which addressed the following questions:

1.  Has the labour supply available to your business/sector improved or deteriorated in the past 12 months? What effect has this had on the economic performance of your business/sector?

2.  What estimate have you made of the labour situation in your business/sector over the next 12 months and up to the UK’s planned date for leaving the UK?

3.  The Government in early 2017 told the then Committee that reports of foreign labour shortages were “anecdotal” and that there would not be a problem of foreign labour supply while the UK remained subject to free movement rules as a member of the European Union. Has this statement proven accurate, or have difficulties in recruiting foreign labour increased even though the UK remains a member of the EU?

4.  In early 2017, the Government’s long-term policy aim was to make the agricultural, horticultural and food sectors “less reliant on migrant labour and use more UK workers”. Has there been any sign of successful Government action towards that objective?

Written submissions will be welcomed, by the committee, up to a deadline of 26th February.

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Farm spending to focus on environment after Brexit – Michael Gove


Britain will only pay public funds to farmers who provide public benefits such as wildlife habitats or improved soil quality under a post-Brexit shake-up in agricultural policies announced in Early January.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who spoke at two farming conferences in Oxford, also said the government would “look at ways to support farmers who may choose to leave the industry.”

British farming is set for a radical overhaul after the country leaves the European Union in March 2019, when, for the first time in decades, the country will have a chance to create its own agricultural policy. 

Farmers in Britain will have to compete for government funds with departments such as health and education once Brussels hands over the purse strings for farming budgets to London.

Under the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), British farmers receive about 3 billion pounds a year in public funds.

Gove, who criticised the CAP’s “fundamentally flawed design”, estimated that around 80 percent of the funding was based on the size of farmers’ productive agricultural land.

“I think that money is poorly spent. Ultimately public money should go towards people who are thinking hard and working hard in order to ensure our environment is enhanced,” he said.

“If we are going to have 3 billion pounds spent then that money should be an investment in the future rather than an incentive to carry on just as people have been doing.”

The new policy announced by Gove will apply only in England, after a transition period. Policies may differ in Scotland and Wales where devolved administrations control farm spending.




Gove said the current system of area-based funding, known as the basic payment scheme (BPS), would continue over a transition period in England after Britain leaves the EU to give farmers enough time to change their business model if necessary.

“After the transition, we will replace BPS with a system of public money for public goods,” he said.

Gove said BPS payments may continue until the end of 2024 although they would be reduced in England “either through a straight cap at the maximum level or through a sliding scale of reductions, to the largest payments first.”

On average, British farmers get about 15,000 pounds a year from direct payments and an EU rural development fund. For some, direct payments account for 70 percent of their income. But a significant chunk goes to wealthy individuals who are large landowners.

Gove also warned farms and food companies that rely heavily on migrant labour while saying the government would pursue a “flexible migration policy overall.”

“Industries which come to rely on importing cheap labour run the risk of failing to invest in the innovation required to become genuinely more productive,” he said.

“Labour-intensive production inevitably lags behind capital intensive production.”

Since the June 2016 British vote to leave the EU, some farmers have reported difficulties in recruiting enough workers.

Gove said the British government would provide more details of its future agricultural policy in a document to be published in the spring.


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Scottish soft fruit growers missed out on £625,000 last year


Nineteen growers based in Perthshire, Angus and Fife, represented by Angus Growers Ltd, calculate that they missed out on £625,000 last year, because of shortages of labour due to Brexit. The growers’ association blamed the financial hit on EU workers being put off coming to the UK. About £400,000 of revenue was lost to the farms in 2017 because there was not enough staff to pick the fruit as it ripened, and delays often meant that the produce had to be downgraded. 85 tonnes of soft fruit were either left unpicked or downgraded.


A survey of farms last year showed that the region was short of between 500 and 1000 seasonal workers. It seems that it is no longer as attractive to work in the UK, due to the weaker Pound. James Porter, Chairman of the NFU Scotland horticulture committee, told The Courier newspaper in July last year that the surveyed growers reported a shortfall in pickers of at least 10%. He said: “Harvest costs will be significantly higher due to more overtime”. Sadly, he was proved to be right, as overtime paid to the reduced number of pickers totalled £225,000.


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Earlier this month the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, unveiled the governments 25 year plan for the UK environment. Positively titled “A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment”, aimed at achieving “cleaner air and water; plants and animals which are thriving; and a cleaner, greener country for us all.”

Please see below a summarised version of the key points raised in the article. 


Clean air

We will achieve clean air by:

  • meeting legally binding targets to reduce emissions of five damaging air pollutants; this should halve the effects of air pollution on health by 2030
  • ending the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040
  • maintaining the continuous improvement in industrial emissions by building on existing good practice and the successful regulatory framework


Clean and plentiful water

We will achieve clean and plentiful water by improving at least three quarters of our waters to be close to their natural state as soon as is practicable by:

  • reducing the damaging abstraction of water from rivers and groundwater, ensuring that by 2021 the proportion of water bodies with enough water to support environmental standards increases from 82% to 90% for surface water bodies and from 72% to 77% for groundwater bodies
  • reaching or exceeding objectives for rivers, lakes, coastal and ground waters that are specially protected, whether for biodiversity or drinking water as per our River Basin Management Plans
  • supporting OFWAT’s ambitions on leakage, minimising the amount of water lost through leakage year on year, with water companies expected to reduce leakage by at least an average of 15% by 2025
  • minimising by 2030 the harmful bacteria in our designated bathing waters and continuing to improve the cleanliness of our waters; we will make sure that potential bathers are warned of any short-term pollution risks


Thriving plants and wildlife

We will achieve a growing and resilient network of land, water and sea that is richer in plants and wildlife

At sea, we will do this by:

  • reversing the loss of marine biodiversity and, where practicable, restoring it
  • increasing the proportion of protected and well-managed seas, and better managing existing protected sites
  • making sure populations of key species are sustainable with appropriate age structures
  • ensuring seafloor habitats are productive and sufficiently extensive to support healthy, sustainable ecosystems

On land and in freshwaters, we will do this by:

  • restoring 75% of our one million hectares of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to favourable condition, securing their wildlife value for the long term
  • creating or restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site network, focusing on priority habitats as part of a wider set of land management changes providing extensive benefits
  • taking action to recover threatened, iconic or economically important species of animals, plants and fungi, and where possible to prevent human induced extinction or loss of known threatened species in England and the Overseas Territories
  • increasing woodland in England in line with our aspiration of 12% cover by 2060: this would involve planting 180,000 hectares by end of 2042


Reducing the risks of harm from environmental hazards

We will reduce the risk of harm to people, the environment and the economy from natural hazards including flooding, drought and coastal erosion by:

  • making sure everyone is able to access the information they need to assess any risks to their lives and livelihoods, health and prosperity posed by flooding and coastal erosion
  • bringing the public, private and third sectors together to work with communities and individuals to reduce the risk of harm
  • making sure that decisions on land use, including development, reflect the level of current and future flood risk
  • ensuring interruptions to water supplies are minimised during prolonged dry weather and drought
  • boosting the long-term resilience of our homes, businesses and infrastructure



Using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently

We will ensure that resources from nature, such as food, fish and timber, are used more sustainably and efficiently. We will do this by:

  • maximising the value and benefits we get from our resources, doubling resource productivity by 2050
  • improving our approach to soil management: by 2030 we want all of England’s soils to be managed sustainably, and we will use natural capital thinking to develop appropriate soil metrics and management approaches
  • increasing timber supplies
  • ensuring that all fish stocks are recovered to and maintained at levels that can produce their maximum sustainable yield
  • ensuring that food is produced sustainably and profitably


Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment

We will conserve and enhance the beauty of our natural environment, and make sure it can be enjoyed, used by and cared for by everyone. We will do this by:

  • safeguarding and enhancing the beauty of our natural scenery and improving its environmental value while being sensitive to considerations of its heritage.
  • making sure that there are high quality, accessible, natural spaces close to where people live and work, particularly in urban areas, and encouraging more people to spend time in them to benefit their health and wellbeing
  • focusing on increasing action to improve the environment from all sectors of society


Mitigating and adapting to climate change

We will take all possible action to mitigate climate change, while adapting to reduce its impact. We will do this by:

  • continuing to cut greenhouse gas emissions including from land use, land use change, the agriculture and waste sectors and the use of fluorinated gases
  • making sure that all policies, programmes and investment decisions take into account the possible extent of climate change this century
  • implementing a sustainable and effective second National Adaptation Programme


Minimising waste

We will minimise waste, reuse materials as much as we can and manage materials at the end of their life to minimise the impact on the environment. We will do this by:

  • working towards our ambition of zero avoidable waste by 2050
  • working to a target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by end of 2042
  • meeting all existing waste targets – including those on landfill, reuse and recycling – and developing ambitious new future targets and milestones
  • seeking to eliminate waste crime and illegal waste sites over the lifetime of this Plan, prioritising those of highest risk. Delivering a substantial reduction in litter and littering behaviour.
  • significantly reducing and where possible preventing all kinds of marine plastic pollution – in particular material that came originally from land

uk pesticide 2

Managing exposure to chemicals

We will make sure that chemicals are safely used and managed, and that the levels of harmful chemicals entering the environment (including through agriculture) are significantly reduced. We will do this by:

  • seeking in particular to eliminate the use of Polychlorinated Biphenyls by 2025, in line with our commitments under the Stockholm Convention
  • reducing land-based emissions of mercury to air and water by 50% by 2030
  • substantially increasing the amount of Persistent Organic Pollutants material being destroyed or irreversibly transformed by 2030, to make sure there are negligible emissions to the environment
  • fulfilling our commitments under the Stockholm Convention as outlined in the UK’s most recent National Implementation Plan


Enhancing bio-security

We will enhance bio-security to protect our wildlife and livestock, and boost the resilience of plants and trees. We will do this by:

  • managing and reducing the impact of existing plant and animal diseases; lowering the risk of new ones and tackling invasive non-native species
  • reaching the detailed goals to be set out in the Tree Health Resilience Plan of 2018
  • ensuring strong bio-security protection at our borders, drawing on the opportunities leaving the EU provides
  • working with industry to reduce the impact of endemic disease


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Farmers using trickle ( Drip ) irrigation systems will have limits enforced on their water usage for the first time – prompting concerns over the growth potential of East Anglian fruit producers.


Defra ( Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) says about 5,000 significant abstractions are exempt from current licensing rules, creating an “unfair playing field” while 20,000 licensed abstractions must water their crops within strict limits, designed to minimise environmental pressures in times of low rainfall.

So these exemptions are set to end, meaning users of drip irrigation system – which guide water to the roots of plants via precise networks of pipes rather then sprayers – must now apply for authorisations during a two-year window, which started on January 1st.


Government’s Stance

Defra’s response to its consultation on water licensing says: “As a result of competing demands for access to water for abstraction, areas of England and Wales are already experiencing water stress. Increasing demand for water from those outside of the current licensing system is exacerbating this position.

The UK and Welsh governments consider that applying these basic ‘hands off flow’ conditions provides basic protection for rivers during low flows and in drought conditions and places a proportionate responsibility of reducing unsustainable abstraction on abstractors being brought under licensing control


Union’s Viewsdi-2

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has raised concerns that the protected and nursery stock sectors could be particularly affected by hands off flow constraints on new trickle irrigation licences.

Following the regulatory change, it also says the government should focus attention on how it can help growers cope with potential shortages of water for irrigation, such as reducing fiscal and regulatory barriers to reservoir construction projects.

It says the government should also consider how it can “best support increased use of rainwater harvesting by farmers and growers”.

Paul Hammett, the NFU’s water resources specialist, said he expects most existing Drip operations will be offered abstraction licences which meet their historic needs, but added: “Nevertheless, new licences could limit potential business growth if they are based on past water use rather than future potential need.”


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Tesco recognises Red Tractor audit as equivalent to own Nurture scheme


Tesco suppliers and exporters revived a boost in the close of 2017, with the new harmonisation of crop standards. Members of Red Tractor Assurance are now be on a level playing field and will no longer have to pay or pass additional inspections by major retailers.

GlobalGap said it had made the decision as a result of its own bench marking exercise, which found further farm assessment could be avoided and therefore removing a significant barrier to fruit and veg exporters.  red tractor logo

The news comes after Red Tractor released a strengthened set of standards that came into force on 1 October. “Reducing duplication, driving down bureaucracy and lowering costs is something that we strive to deliver for farming businesses,” said Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley.

“This is a huge new benefit of Red Tractor membership for UK growers, who no longer have to pay for and pass additional inspections to supply major customers at home and abroad.”

GlobalGAP chief executive Kristian Moeller said: “The Red Tractor Assurance for standards were the very first to be benchmarked by GlobalGAP 15 years ago.

“With this long partnership, we have jointly brought farm certification to a new level and I applaud the achieved state of harmonisation.”

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Importance of Soil Health

Soil health is a well-known topic in the irrigation world, with new research bringing to light the importance of irrigation on soil health. This research has shown that the importance of creating a hospitable environment for the many microbes that enable the growth of the plant, is key.

The research showed that aerating irrigation water promotes a shift toward bacteria that convert’s ammonia into plant-available nitrate.


The Science Behind it All

Dr Goorahoo and his colleagues studied clay soils from a vegetable field in California, in the state’s highly fertile Central Valley. Treated soils had been irrigated for five years with subsurface drip tape that was aerated with Venturi injectors. The injectors use the flow of irrigation water to draw in air and mix it with the flow to form what Dr Goorahoo describes as “an air/water slurry.”  Untreated soils on the same farm were irrigated through subsurface drip tape without the injectors.

Using sophisticated DNA analysis techniques, the research team measured the balance of nine genes in the soil samples, each associated with a specific type of bacterium or Archaea fungus. The soil irrigated with aerated water had a higher proportion of bacteria known to fix nitrogen in the soil into a form usable by crops, while the un-aerated plots had a higher ratio of nitrate-reducing bacteria that convert nitrite into nitrous oxide (N2O)–a posdi 2tent greenhouse gas–and NOx compounds.

The presence of more plant-available nitrate in the root zone as well as healthier roots to channel it into the plant is likely to improve nutrient use efficiency (NUE) and reduce nitrate leaching, Goorahoo added.


Proof is in the Yield

In 2013, Dr Goorahoo addressed an Irrigation Association conference with results from eight years of field trials on a large produce farm with 1,500 acres of AirJection-equipped buried drip systems. A 2008 paper Dr Goorahoo presented to the association highlighted yield increases in California coastal strawberries of 18.3 percent #1-grade fruit and 6.9 percent of #2-grade fruit in aerated plots, in addition to larger root systems in aerated peppers and increases in the size and weight of aerated cantaloupes. In another California study, tomato yields rose 21 percent with aerated irrigation water in normal soils and 38 percent in saline soil.

Dr. Srikanth Pathapati, from Mazzei Injector Company, who design and manucaturfe the Venturi injectors had this to say:

We design, model and precisely construct our injectors to optimize not only how much air the injector can pull in, but how effectively it can shear the bubbles. That shearing action thoroughly mixes the gas and liquid so the irrigation system can deliver water with high levels of dissolved oxygen rather than just entrained bubbles. Design, materials and quality control are extremely important to getting a high-quality injector.



Dr Goorahoo stated aerated irrigation water’s impacts on soil microbial activity, crop performance in saline soils, rooting characteristics of various crops, pest resistance, nutrient use efficiency and water use efficiency are all areas ripe for exploration.

In the meantime, he noted, “Venturi injectors can increase root zone aeration and add value to growers’ investment in SDI (sub-surface drip irrigation)”–important news for irrigation suppliers and farmers facing the current challenging agricultural economy.


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lower reule video

Ever wondered how long it takes to get fruit from Soil to Shelf? Just 1 day for our partners at Lower Reule Farm.

See how they do it:

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All of the Rhino Pipe collection, is manufactured kink free and bound in ropes to absolutely minimise the possibility of a kink forming where the pipe is banded. However, the issue regarding the kinking generally happens post production as the pipe heats and cools during the average day and eventually a kink can occur, even if the pipe is just standing in the yard!

This is tough to legislate against, however we at Ripple Aquaplast have taken strides to ensure the quality of the pipe for our customers. We have decided to increase the wall thickness by approximately 10% which will add considerable strength to the coiled pipe. Therefore incidents of kinks, although not completely negated, have been dramatically reduced.

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