HOPS Director Sarah Boparan spent a day at Fruit Focus in Kent this July and found out more about a possible expansion of the SAWS scheme

A push for a further roll out of the pilot of the new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) was discussed at Fruit Focus this July and HOPS is encouraging growers to help make it happen.

Defra representative Stephanie Sloan discussed the pilot scheme during a session at Fruit Focus and highlighted what the the two operators needed to aid the expansion. Farming Minister George Eustice has tabled an Early Day Motion and HOPS is encouraging its growers to contact their local MPS to ask them to support further development of the pilot.  

HOPS heard positive reports regarding the quality of labour and the commitment of workers involved in the pilot scheme and HOPS hopes to be involved in the scheme as it develops.

Helen Whately MP – who was also in support of SAWS being rolled out wider – spoke passionately about the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fruit and Vegetable Farmers. This group was set up to raise awareness and understanding of the fruit and vegetable industry and to provide the voice of fruit and vegetable farmers inside and outside Parliament.

Throughout the day HOPS took contributed to the NFU Fruit Forums and listened to the sessions about the key impact on labour provision and growers’ needs for reliable, quality labour. 

The insights from farms about their labour experiences were heartfelt and valid. The main areas of concern were quality and an undesirable work ethic. The energy and input from management teams need to motivate workers was highlighted as ‘exhausting’ and is also not achieving the required outputs to harvest crop in good time to meet contractual obligations with supermarkets.

HOPS’ Guide to Happiness can help overcome some of the issues we heard during the day and the team are ready to support any growers who need extra input into improving their systems to make things work more smoothly.

It was helpful to hear from growers and gather their feedback on how the year is progressing. It was also pleasing to hear compliments about the HOPS’ team and we will strive to continue to improve our service to deliver a happy, safe and reliable workforce to the land-based industry.