Daffodil growers were forced to let nearly 300 million flowers rot in the ground this year due to a lack of pickers caused by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. Farmers are warning that if the government does not solve the critical labor shortage before next year's harvest, many will stop growing one of the nation's favorite flowers.
Cornwall supplies nine out of ten of all daffodils grown in the UK after large-scale commercial operations were set up in the late 19th century to benefit from the mild climate. But this year, 274 million stems were left in the ground due to a lack of pickers, leaving the £100 million industry in crisis.
Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives, West Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly, said the unpicked crops also represented a possible loss of £1 million in VAT revenue. He said that the government needed to expand its post-Brexit seasonal agricultural workers scheme (Saws) to cover flowers as well as food crops and to extend its current six-month window by three months to cover the daffodil season.
Thomas said: "It is time for the Home Office to take the opportunity to demonstrate its support for British farming. Our farmers do not yet know if they will be given access to foreign workers through the seasonal agricultural workers' scheme in just 14 weeks.
"There is an urgent need to secure a workforce to harvest our daffodils." Vegetable growers have seen the six-month visa scheme for migrant workers provide a lifeline to their businesses, although some say there is still a shortage.
Producers say British people no longer want temporary work in the fields. Daffodil pickers are paid on a piece-rate, but farms will make that up to the minimum wage if they do not collect enough. A good picker can gather about 1,600 bunches a day, earning £20 an hour, which is more than double the minimum wage.
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