Government announces scheme to bring 2,500 seasonal migrant workers to UK farms
On Thursday 6th September a plan to introduce a nationwide pilot scheme that would allow fruit and vegetable farmers to employ 2,500 seasonal migrant workers per year was announced by the Home Secretary and the Environment Secretary. The government has introduced this immigration scheme to allow a greater number of non-EU migrant workers to enter the country in the hope of alleviating labour shortages on UK farms during periods of peak production.
Over the last twenty years, soft fruit production in the UK has experienced a dramatic growth in production, growing by at least 130%. Whilst this has been very beneficial for economic growth, it has also placed unprecedented stresses on the UK farming industry. In the same time span, automated farming solutions have not spread widely enough to match the increase in production, and as such, there have been labour shortages during the months where soft fruit production is at its highest.
The government, therefore, introduced this immigration scheme to help the UK farming industry to remain profitable in the face of international competition. The idea being implemented by the UK government is nothing new in regards to the worldwide farming industry; currently, almost all other OECD countries use seasonal migrant workers to help meet the demand in picking fruit and vegetables.
In a statement issued by the Home Office, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said, “British farmers are vital to the UK’s economy – and the Government will look to support them in any way we can. This pilot will ensure farmers have access to the seasonal labour they need to remain productive and profitable during busy times of the year.”
Javid also stated that he was “committed to having an immigration system that reduces migration to sustainable levels.” Under the new immigration pilot scheme being implemented by the UK government, which was proposed after lengthy consultation with the UK farming industry, seasonal migrant workers will be able to obtain a visa to live and work in the UK for up to 6 months. The government hopes that this scheme will be sufficient to help UK farmers to remain competitive and profitable. As the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, stated, “This 2 year pilot will ease the workforce pressures faced by farmers during busy times of the year.”