Temporary visa scheme to be extended to cover ornamental horticulture sector

A Home Office Minister has told the EFRA Committee the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme will be turned into a 3 year scheme with 30,000 visas available for next year and the year after, decreasing to 28,000 in the third year. He confirmed it would include visas for work in ornamental horticulture.

The move comes in the wake of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's questions about the chronic labour shortages throughout the food sector.

The Chair of the Committee, Neil Parish MP, has accused the minister of “not listening” and “continually prevaricating”.

”Labour shortages in the food and farming sector have caused a human and animal welfare crisis," he continued, "but the Home Office is simply not listening. It is not supplying enough visas for foreign workers in a timely, efficient manner.

“Employers need workers and cannot get them in time.

“There appears to be a disconnect between this reality and what Mr Foster says,” said Parish. “Again and again during our evidence session he said visa systems were in place to resolve the labour shortages. The food and farming sector tells us this is not the case.

“We need the Home Office to respond to what farmers and businesses are saying and to stop blaming the sector for being at fault. We need an effective cross-Government food and farming labour strategy that deals with immigration and other issues – and we need it fast.

“We have world-class food production capacity in the UK, but the shortage of workers means we are in real danger of exporting our industry – which means we’ll be importing more of our food

“We were pleased to learn from the Minister that a temporary visa scheme is to be extended to cover the ornamental horticulture sector.

"That’s good news for the daffodil growers of Cornwall – and we thank Mr Foster for that. But much of the rest of the farming and food sector is in crisis and we ask the Minister to please listen to its entirely justified cries for help”.