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 say they 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 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:
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said:
NFU Scotland President, Andrew McCornick said:
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay MP said:
The Seasonal Workers Pilot opened in 2019 and was designed to test the effectiveness of our immigration system at supporting UK growers during peak production periods, whilst maintaining robust immigration control, and ensuring the welfare of participating migrant workers. It also provides a valuable source of labour for the UK’s fruit and vegetable growers helping to make sure that all that we grow in this country gets onto our supermarket shelves.
The UK Government has a long history of helping farmers and growers get the seasonal workers they need. Since the end of WW2, similar schemes for Seasonal Agricultural Workers have welcomed migrant workers into the UK – this latest iteration shows the government’s continued commitment to supporting the sector.