The number of workers permitted to travel to the UK to pick and package fruit and vegetables will be trebled for this year’s harvest.
The Seasonal Workers Pilot, originally launched in 2019, has been extended and expanded for an additional year. From 10,000 visas last year there will now be 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, says the Government, 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 has been welcomed by the NFU.
In addition, the government alongside industry will build on the 2020 Pick for Britain campaign and actively promote the recruitment and retention of domestic seasonal workers in 2021. Pick for Britain encouraged UK based workers to take on seasonal jobs when EU workers could not come during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the scheme was criticised by the NFU for having failed to attract much British replacement labour.
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 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.”
Source: Cornish Times