The number of workers permitted to travel to the UK to pick and package fruit and vegetables will be increased for next year’s harvest, the government has announced today (22 December).
The Seasonal Workers Pilot, originally launched in 2019, has been extended and expanded for an additional year with 30,000 visas available for those wanting to come and work on UK farms for a period of up to six months. The workers will play a vital role in helping horticulture growers pick and package their produce in 2021, whilst reducing their reliance on migrant labour as we exit the EU.
The expansion of the scheme follows a long period of close working with the National Farmers Unions and the Association of Labour Providers, across all parts of the UK and in particular recognition of the need for additional seasonal labour in Scotland to support local rural economies and the renowned soft fruit growers.
In addition, the government alongside industry will build on this year’s Pick for Britain campaign and actively promote the recruitment and retention of domestic seasonal workers in 2021. This year Pick for Britain helped to raise the profile of roles in the sector, encouraging UK based workers to take on seasonal jobs during the busy harvest months to help keep the nation fed.
Alongside the Seasonal Workers Pilot, Defra will also lead a review into automation in horticulture, to begin in early 2021. The review will report on ways to increase automation in the sector and meet the government’s aim of reducing the need for migrant seasonal labour.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We will always back our farmers and growers, who work hard all year round to provide us with a secure supply of fruit and vegetables.
“The measures announced today will provide vital labour, both domestic and from abroad, to our farmers and growers to help gather the 2021 harvest to feed the nation. Our review into automation will pave the way for a pioneering and efficient future for our fruit and vegetable growers.”
NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “This is welcome and positive news, not just for Britain’s growers but also for shoppers who want to enjoy home-grown fresh produce.
“By expanding the Seasonal Workers Pilot, the Government is sending a clear message that it is important for Britain to be able to produce its own fruit and veg, which has huge potential for growth. This scheme will allow growers to employ seasonal workers at key times to pick a wide variety of fresh produce on British farms.”