Seasonal agricultural workers scheme opens
A seasonal agricultural workers scheme pilot aimed at bringing migrant workers to the UK for seasonal work was opened last month.
The UK-wide scheme was confirmed last September and allows employers to take on migrants for a six-month period each year, and will be piloted from April 2019.
Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, potential labour shortages had become a key concern for many people in the agricultural sector. The pilot scheme will bring 2,500 workers into the country and it is hoped this will alleviate concerns as the UK continues its negotiations with the EU.
After the announcement was made in September, Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said: “This pilot will ensure farmers have access to the seasonal labour they need to remain productive and profitable during busy times of the year.”
The decision was greeted warmly by farmers, who have enjoyed a dramatic increase in fruit production over the last two decades. In order to manage the growth in production, farmers require significant labour during harvesting periods and feared that reduced access to the European labour market could impact profits.
Head of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, said after the announcement that “farmers and growers have seen worker availability tighten significantly in recent years, with the shortfall to July this year reaching ten per cent.” She continued: “Growers will take great confidence in knowing that the government is listening during what have been extremely testing and uncertain times for the sector.”
NFU Scotland also supported the move, alluding to the impact of Brexit on the soft fruit industry. Chairman James Porter explained that as a result of labour leaving the EU, fruit had gone “unpicked” and described the rollout of a new scheme as a “positive move”.
In April, British companies Concordia and Pro-Force will bring 2,500 workers to the UK on a six-month basis who will then be able to seek employment. The pilot will test the success of the scheme but may need to grow in size in order to meet the demands of the NFU. It claims that there is a shortfall of up to 80,000 workers during peak periods and that around 13 per cent of roles went unfilled during 2018.