The world’s largest daffodil farm, which is based in Cornwall, is being forced to let hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of flowers rot after encountering troubles hiring staff since Brexit.
Varfell Farms, at Long Rock, Penzance, produces 500 million stems a year and needs 700 workers to pick them.
However, since Covid and the end of free movement following Brexit, the business only has around 400 flower pickers.
Business owner Alex Newey told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that flowers are rotting as a result.
“We can’t harvest them, we don’t have enough pickers to pick them. We’re losing hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Hopes that Cornish workers could step into the shoes of those who are now unable to travel from the European Union have been dashed.
“We have significant recruitment drives for local workers to come and harvest crops,” added Newey. “It’s idealistic to think that because of Covid and the higher than usual unemployment rates that those people would come in and do that work.
“I would say that a daffodil harvester is to be highly respected because the work is very hard. You’re out in the cold weather, it’s in Cornwall, it blows pretty hard down there. It’s wet and you’re bending over picking daffodils for three months.
“Frankly, the people that we’ve had to come and do this work, the locals, may last a day or two days, but they certainly don’t last two or three months.”
A scheme to attract seasonal workers from other parts of the world does not currently include flower picking as part of its remit.
Newey said: “The seasonal worker pilot scheme will allow workers from outside of the EU – that’s the important bit, outside the EU – under a visa scheme to come in and harvest food crops. There are significant pools of available workers from places such as the Ukraine, Moldova and further afield in South America.
“But for the time being that’s only for edible crops. It does not include ornamental crops. By definition, flowers are excluded from that.”
Newey has raised his concerns with the government.
The industry annually contributes £150 million to the UK economy, a member of the company has confirmed.
He said the farm supplies daffodils to all UK supermarkets as well as exporting them to Europe, the USA and Dubai.