Posted on January 23, 2009

Harvest Fears As Recession Forces Migrant Workers Home

Jack Davies, Guardian (Manchester), January 21, 2009

CROPS could be left to rot in the fields this summer as migrant workers leave the UK in their droves over fears for the country’s faltering economy, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

New research from the LGA identifies farming as one of the hardest hit industries as a result of new restrictions on non-EU workers and the possibility of migrant workers leaving the country.

Councillor Margaret Eaton, chairman of the LGA, said: “If migrant workers begin to return home in large numbers, it could put real strain on some of the key services and industries we all take for granted.

“This report is a stark reminder that councils and businesses across the country need to be alert to any changes in their local workforce.

“Farmers are already saying they’ve lost money because they can’t fill jobs. If seasonal migrant workers can’t be recruited, this will only get worse and losses could be passed on to consumers.

“Unharvested food will go to waste and food will need to be shipped in from abroad, both of which will damage the environment.”

Council leaders will today (Wednesday, January 21) put forward a three point plan to ensure that the businesses most likely to be affected can cope.

The plan will see local councils lead the way, bringing together local businesses, the Learning and Skills Council and Job Centre Plus to help identify what skills are needed and set up training programmes to make up any skills gap.

It will also call on the Home Office to review the situation and will advise councils to keep a close eye on local populations to identify early any signs of a mass exodus.