The Government has announced the opening of the seasonal workers pilot, which will allow fruit and vegetable farmers to employ up to 2,500 non-EU migrant workers for seasonal work for up to six months.
The Government has licensed two scheme operators, Concordia and Pro-Force, to manage the pilot. These operators will be responsible for identifying suitable workers and matching them to UK farmers. They will also be required to ensure the welfare of the workers whilst they are in the UK.
Once their recruitment and visa applications have been approved, the first workers could arrive on UK farms as early as this spring. This will be music to the ears of fruit and vegetable farmers, as they desperately need the additional sources of labour during the busy harvest months.
As Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes commented, the Government understands how vital British produce is for the economy and is willing to take the necessary action to ensure UK farms can continue to grow, sell and export more British food.
Moreover, the pilot will test the effectiveness of our immigration system at helping to alleviate seasonal labour shortages during peak production periods, whilst maintaining robust immigration control and ensuring there are minimal impacts on local communities and public services.
Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is working closely with the Home Office to help to ensure the success of the pilot, and Defra’s Food Minister David Rutley has said that the pilot will boost the workforce on farms this spring and summer and help farmers with their harvests.
He added that the pilot, which will be closely monitored and reviewed, will help inform future policy as the Government looks at how best to support the longer-term needs of the industry outside the EU.