Defra extends Seasonal Workers Pilot to 30,000 visas

The government has extended the Seasonal Workers Pilot for another year and expanded its size
The government has extended the Seasonal Workers Pilot for another year and expanded its size

The number of farm workers allowed to travel to the UK to pick fruit and vegetables will be trebled for the 2021 harvest, the government has announced.

The Seasonal Workers Pilot has been extended and expanded for an additional year, from 10,000 visas to 30,000 for 2021.

The scheme, first announced in 2018, gives farming businesses the opportunity to employ migrant workers for up to six months.

The UK requires around 80,000 seasonal farm workers every year and the Office for National Statistics has stated that 99% of these come from countries within the EU.

The expansion of the pilot follows discussions between Defra, the NFU, the Association of Labour Providers and other industry bodies.

Defra 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."

Mr Eustice added that the government would also conduct a review into automation which would pave the way for a 'pioneering and efficient future' for growers.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said the extension of the worker pilot was 'welcome and positive news' for Britain's growers and consumers.

“This scheme will allow growers to employ seasonal workers at key times to pick a wide variety of fresh produce on British farms,” he said.

In addition, Defra said government and industry will build on this year’s Pick for Britain campaign and promote the recruitment and retention of domestic seasonal workers in 2021.

The initiative has helped to raise the profile of roles in the sector, encouraging UK based workers to take on seasonal jobs during the busy harvest months.