Written evidence submitted by Kernock Park Plants Organisation (LS0004)
Kernock Park Plants – Ornamental young plant producer
Your questions seem to relate mostly to food and farming, but we have been asked to respond.
We are a young plant business based in Cornwall producing 13 million plants each year. We employ 55 FTE’s all year and seasonally rise to 100 employees for up to 6 months of the year. We have grave concerns about the lack of seasonal labour available to us now and going forward. We have no allocation from Seasonal Workers Pilot as we are deemed not to dealing primarily in edibles.
We recruit locally and we have a wonderful team comprised of many locally based staff. The issue is that it takes a great deal of work, invested time and money to build and retain a good team and the seasonal nature of the business is that we need a large number of seasonal staff to start on a certain date for the period of the peak season and that is a challenge when only relying on the staff within the immediate local area who will often, understandably want longer term positions rather than seasonal work.
We were approximately 20 staff short on our potential requirement for the past season and we are more concerned for the coming season starting December 2021 as we are already aware of certain staff that we would employ, but did not attain pre-settled status as they were not here on January 1st due to transport delays caused by COVID. We are also aware of significant agency shortages and many of those that gained pre-settled or settled status are not returning to work in the UK due to perception of Brexit and/or COVID related issues, so the actual number of people available to employ must be severely depleted in reality.
Amongst all the other many challenges businesses are facing currently, the lack of ability to recruit reduces the potential growth and will suppress turnover going forward, increased wastes - time, people and product, induce more stresses and strains on the present incumbents, which in turn can lead to further staffing issues.
We in the ornamental plant sector have essentially been left to fend for ourselves and have worked incredibly hard through COVID, UK exit and beyond, but I believe urgent action within weeks, (not months) is needed in allowing more freedom for European workforce to work in our sector, to help prevent huge financial burden and losses in our industry.
Regarding your question on the inspections at border for all plant imported from Europe – I really do not see how these checks are going to be feasible. The size, scale and varying nature of plant good brought over the border is incredible. I cannot see how even a portion of these will be checked when dealing with full lorries of variable plant produce. They can not be unloaded to inspect a product in the centre of a vehicle and any further delays to what we are already experiencing will be devastating to the life, perishable product on board. Please not that we are dealing with cuttings and tissue culture plants that need to transit quickly in order to avoid losses.
We have been accepting new rule and regulation after another and costs are spiralling now for all the additional import and export paperwork and checks. It is seriously concerning looking ahead at the impact that all these changes will have on our business.