Cannabis farms across the UK are in the midst of a labour shortage during the cannabis harvest season. According to Britain’s largest cannabis production site, cannabis farms are low on seasonal workers as Brexit policy makes it difficult for workers from other European countries to come farm in the UK.
British Sugar which is one of Britain’s largest cannabis growers has accused Brexit and strict immigration policy as the problem causing the labour shortages in the industry. Some worry that it will not be solved for this particular harvest season. This could be detrimental to the UK as a European hub for the CBD industry.
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The exclusion of cannabis farms in immigration policy
The UK government planned a pilot scheme to permit EU workers to work in UK farms during harvest season. The scheme permits 30,000 workers from the EU to work on English farms for up to six months. This was set up in order to help UK farms after Brexit which highly depend on foreign workers.
However, the programme failed to take into account many forms of farming, including cannabis farming. This is because the policy only accepts immigration for workers helping on food cultivation farms. Cannabis farming is not recognised and thus will not be granted any foreign workers through this pilot scheme.
As the UK CBD industry is larger than ever, there is high demand for workers. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for CBD farms to find enough workers without the aid of seasonal immigration.
Peter Watson, agriculture director of British Sugar, claims: “It is disappointing that we have had a year that has been very challenging due to the worker shortages at our glasshouses.”
He added: “Our seasonal colleagues live on-site for the growing and harvesting periods and we have historically employed people from both the UK and countries across Europe. “The restrictions to the pilot this year have meant we have struggled to recruit people.”
British Sugar’s role in the CBD industry
British Sugar grows cannabis in Norfolk. They have the UK’s biggest cannabis grow site with an 18-hectare glasshouse situated in the small town of Wissington. All of which is sustainably heated from the sugar factory in the same vicinity.
The company is a major supplier for the US company Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Jazz uses the CBD from cannabis to create accredited anti-epilepsy medicines. Also importantly, the pharmaceutical company is the only one providing licensed medicine made from CBD in the UK at a commercial scale.
British Sugar sees the urgency in their crop for medical reasons and hopes to be able to keep up with demand with such a labour shortage this year. They aim to encourage the UK government to add non-edible crops to the list next year so that production can keep up with the high speed the cannabis industry is developing.
Potential problems for the British CBD industry
The UK cannabis industry is one of the largest in the world. However, restrictions and failures to acknowledge the industry have been obstacles that continually appear for cannabis-based companies.
Strangely, the UK is one of the largest exporters of CBD products and medical cannabis despite the fact that most cannabis products for prescription in the UK are imported. The UK has the potential to rely on itself as the creator of high-quality, licensed cannabis medicine, however, this new scheme makes it more difficult yet again.
The government even is regularly trying to promote cannabis cultivation and production as a new, up-and-coming industry in the post-Brexit UK. Although politicians continue to promote the cannabis industry, new restrictions indirectly affect the sector, causing it to stagnate and fail to reach its full potential.