CLA Comment: Rural economy is in need of more ‘young blood’

Tom Herring from the Suffolk Garlic Farm

Tom Herring from the Suffolk Garlic Farm - Credit: Archant

IN THIS month’s Country Land & Business Association column, CLA member Tom Herring of the Suffolk Garlic Farm offers a controversial personal view on differing attitudes between British and migrant workers

YOU often hear in the media that there is a lack of jobs, especially for the young, with ever-increasing unemployment levels.

The agricultural sector, however, is crying out for hard working individuals wanting to take the bull by the horns and take on increasing responsibilities. At present, this gap is mainly being filled by agency staff, with many of the workers coming from eastern Europe.

Why aren’t these agencies filled with home-grown British talent? Everybody wants staff to be efficient, work hard and go home feeling good about themselves, with money in their pocket to look after themselves and their families.

The simple knock on effect of this is that more people are self-sufficient, motivated and are not a drain on the UK taxpayer though the benefits system. This, surely, must be a win, win situation?

It is widely thought that the idea behind employing foreign workers is that they simply work harder for longer and are more reliable. How can the British worker compete with this? Why does the British person need to work hard? They don’t need to, as the State will produce a cheque for them to collect every week with hardly having to get out of bed.

A lot of foreign workers travel half way across the world to find a job; some British workers wouldn’t even travel half way across their own town.

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Within British agriculture there are some of the hardest working loyal employees in the world and if UK agriculture wants to thrive and be successful this needs to continue. But if new blood is not coming through from British people this gap has still got to be filled.

Jobs on offer are good, solid jobs with the potential to earn very good money. Surely it must be best to keep British people employed and keep the money in the local economy to grease the wheels for economic recovery?

The situation doesn’t appear to be getting any easier, with a proposal that may give Bulgarians and Romanians the right to live and work unrestricted in Britain from 2014 under European Union “freedom of movement” rules. This could lead to significant numbers of arrivals similar to 2004 when other EU countries gained these rights.

A vicious circle is beginning to form: more Europeans are moving into towns and cities in search of a better life, paving the way for further people to come in to fill the agricultural roles on offer – thus still leaving the UK with unemployment figures of around 2.5million.

Rural businesses need to be supportive of employing British workers but they need support from society and government. It simply should not be a life-choice to stay in bed.

As an example, when the Suffolk Garlic Farm was started in Blaxhall, it was planned that the labour would be sourced as locally as possible.

With a top grade work force we are now supplying products throughout East Anglia and further afield, with quality and traceable local products. However, the dream of using 100% British labour sadly soon became a distant memory as some of the peak season team had to be replaced by foreign contract labour with a stronger work ethic and better reliability.

If British nationals who are seeking employment are going to fill this large employment void in agriculture and other rural businesses and Britain truly wants to put the “Great” back into “Great Britain” the short answer is “less moaning and more hard work”.

: : To become a member of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) in the East of England, please visit www.cla.org.uk.

You can also telephone 01638 590429 to speak to a member of the team, or email Suffolk’s CLA territory manager, Bernard Pentelow, on bernard.pentelow@cla.org.uk.

For more information about the Suffolk Garlic Farm at Blaxhall, near Woodbridge, visit www.thesuffolkgarlicfarm.co.uk .

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