Farmers experiencing labour shortages told to email MP

The pilot is intended to run until the end of December 2020
The pilot is intended to run until the end of December 2020

The NFU has urged farmers impacted by labour shortages to contact their MP to make the case for expanding the new Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme.

The pilot, announced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Defra Secretary Michael Gove last September, means farms are able to employ migrant workers for up to six months.

Two operators – Concordia and Pro-Force – have been licenced to manage the pilot and are responsible for identifying suitable workers and matching them to farmers.

The first workers arrived on farms this spring, but some farm businesses continue to experience labour shortages.

The NFU is asking the government to expand the scheme's scope and convert it to a 'permanent, fully-functioning scheme' which will provide more migrant labour.

“If you’re impacted by labour shortages please contact your MP and ask them to make the case to the Home Office to deliver on long-term access to seasonal labour for farming,” the union said.

A ready-made template has been created with key asks that can be emailed directly to an MP.

The pilot is intended to run until the end of December 2020, and will be reviewed by government before any decisions are taken on running a future scheme.

It comes as the UK requires approximately 80,000 seasonal agricultural workers every year and the Office for National Statistics has stated that 99% of these workers come from countries within the EU.

But farmers have seen a sharp decline in the number of seasonal workers since the UK voted to leave the bloc.

Nick Marston, Chairman of British Summer Fruits, said farms are reporting staff shortages of 10-20% already, and to have any effect in terms of supporting the industry, around 10,000 are needed now – not 2,500.

“The proposal represents a 4% increase in a shrinking workforce, the UK berry industry grows by at least 8% per annum and this will not sustain a standstill, let alone growth,” he said.

Last year, the severity of the crisis led the leader of the NFU to highlight how 'food is rotting in the fields', yet the industry sees 'no action' to help alleviate concern.