Blog: Brexit forces world’s largest daffodil farm to let flowers rot in fields – Cornwall Live

The world’s largest daffodil grower, which is based in Cornwall, is having to let hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of flowers rot following 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 as many of its workers have previously come from EU countries.

The business’ owner Alex Newey told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that it has to let daffodils rot in the fields 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,” he said.

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 Mr 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.

The daffodils industry was heavily reliant on migrant workers from the EU
(Image: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr 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 is 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.”

Mr Newey has raised his concerns with the government.

“I have to say the responses are positive and we are hopeful that the ornamentals sector will be included in the scheme, but as yet it hasn’t happened. In any event, we’re too late for this flower season.”

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Earlier this month Varfell Farms was given permission by Cornwall Council to install 49 caravans for workers on the site.

Matt Jarrett, from the company, told a planning meeting that the industry annually contributes £150 million to the UK economy.

He explained that the business was now farming 2,881 acres and had 52 full-time staff as well as 600 seasonal staff.

He added that his operation supplied daffodils to all UK supermarkets as well as exporting them to Europe, the USA and Dubai.

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