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2 Apr 2024

Aleksandra Cupriak, Farmers Guide (UK)

UK: National Farmers Union calls for halt to SMETA plans for growers to cover seasonal worker recruitment costs without industry consultation & clarity, citing risks to business

"NFU calls for halt to SMETA changes until growers are fully consulted,"

New requirements to SMETA (SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit) workforce audits have revealed that UK farming and growing businesses will have to pay for the recruitment and transportation fees of the seasonal workers they employ. 

The NFU is calling for the change to be paused until there is an official industry consultation, alignment on how it will be fairly implemented, financial cost impacts, as well as the risks to farming and growing businesses are fully understood.

NFU president Tom Bradshaw said: “I am shocked that a decision such as this, which could have detrimental financial implications on our farmers and growers – already struggling with high input costs, extreme weather events and challenges in the supply chain – has been decided without the consultation of the people and businesses it will affect. 

“We care deeply about the welfare of the skilled people who come to our country to help produce the nation’s food, and many horticulture and poultry producers have high numbers of workers return to their businesses each year because they are so well valued. Paying the recruitment fees of workers could mean that many businesses are no longer commercially viable and will drive food price inflation. It is unclear how the change in standard will be applied fairly and transparently across the supply chain..."

Mr Bradshaw added that it is vital that the proposed changes are paused until there is a full consultation with all stakeholders and a full assessment on the impacts the proposed audit changes will have to the commercial viability of growers, food inflation and UK food security.